W.Va. Senate OKs business court plan

John O'Brien Mar. 10, 2010, 3:58pm


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - The West Virginia Senate on Wednesday gave its approval to a bill that would allow the state Supreme Court to create business courts in certain districts.

The Senate tacked an amendment onto the bill, first passed by the House of Representatives, but Stacey Ruckle, the House communications director said it was "technical in nature, and we will be concurring."

"This legislation illustrates how lawmakers can be proactive, even in the midst of this tough economy," House Speaker Rick Thompson said. "We are sending the business community the message that West Virginia is a welcoming environment."

The bill would allow the state Supreme Court to create business courts in jurisdictions with more than 60,000 residents.

Thompson said the courts would ease the pressure on courts with heavy criminal and civil caseloads and provide businesses with specialized judges.

Several groups have complained about how businesses are treated in West Virginia's courts system, which has no intermediate appellate courts.

The American Tort Reform Association annually picks the state as one of its Judicial Hellholes in its report.

Rep. Tim Miley, a Democrat and Judiciary Committee chairman, is the lead sponsor of the bill. The bill has eight other Democratic sponsors and two Republican.

They are Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia; Bonnie Brown, D-Kanawha, John Frazier, D-Mercer; Mark Hunt, D-Kanawha; Tim Manchin, D-Marion; Harold Michael, D-Hardy, Clif Moore, D-McDowell, Bill Wooton, D-Raleigh, Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur; and John Ellem, R-Wood.

"The legislation encourages the state Supreme Court to establish business courts in multi-judge districts with more than three circuit judges by allocating existing circuit court resources and personnel, without requiring additional judicial positions," Thompson said.

"I believe this change will go a long way in improving both our court system's efficiency and the state's business climate."

Chief Justice Robin Davis, to the displeasure of the state Chamber of Commerce, recently said the state has no need for intermediate appellate courts.

Thompson noted that the business court system has helped Delaware become home to 63 percent of Fortune 500 companies.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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