West Virginia Judiciary

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Frequently asked questions

How many circuit judges are there?

There are seventy circuit judges in thirty-one circuits. The circuits vary in size; one has seven judges while nine have one judge each. While every country has a courthouse where a judge presides, a single circuit can be comprised of up to four counties.

How long are circuit court judge terms?

Eight years.

What is the circuit court jurisdiction?

The circuit courts are trial courts of record. They have jurisdiction over all civil cases in which more than $300 is at issue; all cases on equity; proceedings in habeas corpus, mandamus, quo warranto, prohibition and certiorari; and all felonies and misdemeanors. Circuit courts receive appeals from magistrate courts, municipal courts, and all administrative agencies except from the Division of Workers' Compensation. Workers' compensation appeals go directly to the Supreme Court of Appeals. Circuit courts also can hear appeals of family court rulings, but both parties can agree to appeal domestic relations decisions directly to the Supreme Court. Additionally, circuit judges receive recommended orders from judicial officers who hear mental health hygiene matters.

How much are circuit judges paid?

$126,000 a year.

What kind of staff do circuit judges have?

Each circuit judge has a law clerk, a secretary, and a court reporter.

Other than hearing cases, what other duties to circuit judges have?

In addition to their regular case loads, circuit judges also serve on the Mass Litigation Panel, the Business Court Committee, the Court Improvement Program Board, the Compliance Committee on Prisons and Jails, and several other special committees of the Supreme Court. Circuit judges preside over numerous juvenile and adult treatment courts throughout the state, and dozens of judges are active in civic education programs in public schools, private schools, and colleges and universities.

How many family court judges are there?

There are forty-five family court judges in twenty-seven circuits. There is at least one in every circuit. The largest, Kanawha County, has five.

How long are family court judge terms?

Eight years.

What is the family court jurisdiction?

Family courts have jurisdiction over divorce, annulment, separate maintenance, paternity, grandparent visitation, name change, infant guardianship, child custody, and family support proceedings, except those incidental to child abuse and neglect. Family court judges also hold final hearings in civil domestic violence protective order proceedings and may perform marriages. Family court judges have authority to make final decisions in family court cases. Circuit courts hear appeals of family court decisions unless both parties agree to appeal divorce and other domestic relations decisions directly to the Supreme Court of Appeals. Family court judges can refer parents to mediation and parent education and refer children for guardian ad litem services. The Supreme Court does not charge families who cannot afford to pay for these services. Along with mediation, family court judges can order parents who are divorcing to attend a one-time, mandatory parent education class. The class teaches parents how to minimize the negative effects of divorce and family dissolution on children.

How much are family court judges paid?

$94,500 a year.

What is a guardian ad litem?

Guardian ad litem must be attorneys. They conduct investigations to help family court judges make decisions in the best interest of the people the guardians represent. Family court judges can appoint guardians ad litem on behalf of children, incarcerated persons, and people who have been adjudicated incompetent who are involved in family court disputes.

What is family court mediation?

Family court judges require all parents to attend mediation sessions if they cannot otherwise resolve parenting issues or agree to a parenting plan. Parents first go to individual pre-mediation screening sessions with a trained family case coordinator to determine if they are candidates for mediation. About twenty percent of parents are not candidates for mediation for various reasons. If parents go to individual pre-mediation for various reasons. If parents go to mediation, they must attend a mediation session with a Supreme Court-approveed family court mediator who helps them draft a parenting plan to present to a family court judge.

How many magistrates are there in West Virginia?

There are 158 magistrates in West Virginia. There are at least two magistrates in every county, and ten in Kanawha County.

How long are magistrate terms?

Four years.

What is the jurisdiction of magistrate court?

Magistrates have jurisdiction over civil cases in which the financial amount in dispute is less than five thousand dollars. They hear misdemeanor cases and conduct preliminary examinations in felony cases. In criminal cases they issue and record affidavits, complaints, arrest warrants, and search warrants, as well as set bail and make decisions concerning proposed plea agreements, the collection of courts costs, cash bonds, and fines. Magistrates issue emergency protective orders in cases involving domestic violence. Immediately entering domestic violence petitions into the Domestic Violence Database and Registry is an important part of their work. In some counties where there are no mental hygiene commissioners, the chief judge can designate a magistrate to handle all or part of probable cause involuntary hospitalization cases. Magistrates, however, cannot handle final commitment or guardianship cases. In some counties both mental hygiene commissioners and designated magistrates are appointed by the chief judge to do portions of mental hygiene work. Magistrates can enter mental hygiene orders into West Virginia’s Mental Health Registry and issue applications and temporary placement orders after hours and on weekends when needed. Circuit courts hear appeals of magistrate court cases.

How much are magistrates paid?

Magistrates are paid $51,125 or $57,500 a year, depending on the population of the county.

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