Trade groups find fault with W.Va. SC's new rules

Jessica M. Karmasek Jul. 23, 2010, 6:23am

West Virginia Chief Justice Robin Davis

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - Two West Virginia trade associations, in comments filed Monday, say changes proposed by the state's Supreme Court to its appellate procedures will increase the court's workload and make it harder to attract new businesses.

The West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association -- one of the oldest trade associations in the state -- in its comments acknowledged some of the changes to the rules are helpful.

However, it does "not feel that the revisions will guarantee criminal or civil litigants a substantive review by the court and a meaningful right of appeal."

They note that the state's Supreme Court of Appeals is one of the busiest appellate courts in the United States. "It would be almost impossible for the court to effectively and meaningfully review the tremendous number of additional cases that adoption of these rules would precipitate," the association wrote.

The proposed rules provide for a decision by the Supreme Court on the merits of every appeal.

The trade association said the adoption of the revised rules also would "further erode" the state's ability to attract new business "since this process for appeal will be seen as illusory and incomplete."

The oil and natural gas group also calls for the creation of an intermediate court of appeals, as does the West Virginia Business and Industry Council.

The council includes most, if not all, of the state's business-related trade associations.

The council, in its comments filed on Monday -- the last day public comments could be submitted -- said an intermediate court was the best way to offer a meaningful right of appeal.

It also believes the proposed revised changes add to the Supreme Court's workload. The council also believes it is "inevitable" they will result in higher costs to the state.

Instead, it believes the additional expenses could be channeled toward an intermediate court.

Meanwhile, West Virginia's Public Service Commission took issue with the number of days given to prepare the record of proceedings in regards to public service commission appeals.

The PSC serves as a regulatory agency for utilities doing business in the state.

It wrote in its comments, filed last week, that it's not unusual for the record of commission proceedings to be "extraordinarily voluminous, with multiple parties filing direct and rebuttal testimony of numerous witnesses, sometimes exceeding 40 witnesses, and cross examinations and transcripts and exhibits from extensive hearings."

The PSC added, "Preparing a record of this magnitude is time intensive."

It said the 10 days was too short and "unduly burdensome." Instead, they suggested 30 days be given.

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