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HOW DO I SEARCH WEST VIRGINIA COURT RECORDS?

West Virginia court records are made publicly available in compliance with the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act. The law mandates that any record deemed public be made accessible to citizens without requiring an intention of need. West Virginia court records are available in paper and electronic formats. Requestors may obtain a West Virginia court record in one of these two ways:

  • Visit the local courthouse where the record is on file to obtain a paper copy
  • Visit the local courthouse where the record is on file to view an electronic copy through the public access terminal in the courthouse.
  • Contact the Clerk of the courthouse where the case was filed to request copies of available court records by mail

Note the right of the public to access all court records is not absolute. Court records restricted or sealed by a statute or court order may be unavailable on request. Requests to copy available court records may be subject to a fee. To locate the address of any courthouse in the state, consider the Court Information by County map on the West Virginia Judiciary website. Ensure to select the appropriate map to determine the exact address.

HOW CAN I OBTAIN A WEST VIRGINIA COURT RECORD ONLINE FOR FREE?

West Virginia Court records are not made available for free. Courts in West Virginia do not also provide online access to obtain records for free or by subscription. To obtain court records in the state, requestors will have to visit the relevant local courthouse where the record is on file to obtain a paper copy or to view an electronic record from the public terminal computer in the courthouse.

However, West Virginia provides online access to electronic records of cases handled by its Business Court Division. The public may access these records via the online case management portal on the West Virginia Judiciary website. The online platform allows users to perform a simple case search by two options:

  • Case number
  • Case title

An advanced search can be performed by specifying additional options such as:

  • County
  • Case status
  • Date
  • Circuit Court Judge
  • Business Court Division Judge

Court records are considered open to the public and are usually accessible through government sources, though they may also be accessed through third-party websites. These websites offer an easier method in most cases, as they are not limited by geographical area, or by limitations in search engine technology. They can often serve as a starting point when looking for a specific record, or multiple records. Interested parties must usually provide:

  • The name of the person listed in the record. This may not apply to records on juveniles.
  • The assumed or known location of the person listed in the record. This will most often be a city, county, or state.

Because they are not government-sponsored, record availability on third party websites may vary when compared to government sources.

HOW DOES THE WEST VIRGINIA COURT SYSTEM WORK?

There are 4 levels to the West Virginia court system namely; the Supreme Court of Appeals, the Circuit Courts, the Family Courts, and the Magistrate Courts. West Virginia Circuit Courts are the trial courts of general jurisdiction. The Family and Magistrate Courts are the trial courts of limited jurisdictions. The state's highest court is the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Appeals from the trial courts of limited jurisdictions are filed with the Circuit Courts. Appeals from the Circuit Courts are heard at the Supreme Court of Appeals. West Virginia does not have an intermediate appellate court.

HOW DOES THE WEST VIRGINIA CIRCUIT COURT WORK?

West Virginia Circuit Courts are the state's trial court of general jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases. Circuit Courts have appellate jurisdiction over the decisions of the Magistrate Courts, Municipal Courts, and certain administrative agencies. Family Court appeals are sometimes heard in the Circuit Court except in cases where the parties involved in the case agree to appeal directly to the Supreme Court of Appeals. The court's jurisdiction covers matters relating to:

  • Civil cases at law over $7,500
  • Civil cases in equity
  • Proceedings in habeas corpus
  • Mandamus
  • Quo warranto
  • Prohibition
  • Certiorari
  • Felony
  • Misdemeanor
  • Mental health
  • Juvenile matters
  • Probate/estate

Appeals of Circuit Court judgments are filed directly to the Supreme Court of Appeals. There are 75 Circuit Court Judges in West Virginia serving 31 judicial circuits. Each of the state's 55 counties has a courthouse where the Circuit Judge rules. The state's judicial circuits are:

  • First – Hancock, Brooke, and Ohio counties (four judges)
  • Second – Marshall, Wetzel, and Tyler counties (two judges)
  • Third – Ritchie, Doddridge, and Pleasants counties (one judge)
  • Four – Wood and Wirt counties (three judges)
  • Fifth – Calhoun, Jackson, Mason and Roane counties (three judges)
  • Sixth – Cabell County (four judges)
  • Seventh – Logan County (two judges)
  • Eighth – McDowell County (two judges)
  • Ninth – Mercer County (three judges)
  • Tenth – Raleigh County (four judges)
  • Eleventh – Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties (two judges)
  • Twelfth – Fayette County (two judges)
  • Thirteenth – Kanawha County (seven judges)
  • Fourteenth – Braxton, Clay, Gilmer, and Webster counties (two judges)
  • Fifteenth – Harrison County (three judges)
  • Sixteenth – Marion County (two judges)
  • Seventeenth – Monongalia County (three judges)
  • Eighteenth – Preston County (one judge)
  • Nineteenth – Barbour and Taylor counties (one judge)
  • Twentieth – Randolph County (one judge)
  • Twenty-First – Grant, Mineral and Tucker counties (two judges)
  • Twenty-Second – Hampshire, Hardy and Pendleton counties (two judges)
  • Twenty-Third – Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties (six judges)
  • Twenty-Fourth – Wayne County (two judges)
  • Twenty-Fifth – Boone, and Lincoln counties (two judges)
  • Twenty-Sixth – Lewis, and Upshur counties (two-judge)
  • Twenty-Seventh – Wyoming County (one judge)
  • Twenty-Eighth – Nicholas County (one judge)
  • Twenty-Ninth – Putnam County (two judges)
  • Thirtieth – Mingo County (one judge)
  • Thirty-First – Monroe, and Summers counties (one judge)

Circuit Court judges are elected to 8-year terms in non-partisan elections. Judges of the court are expected to reside in the circuit where they serve and must be admitted into the practice of law in West Virginia for at least 5 years before assuming office.

HOW DOES THE WEST VIRGINIA FAMILY COURT WORK?

Family Courts are established to primary deal in familial/domestic matters. Therefore, their jurisdiction covers cases of:

  • Divorce
  • Separate maintenance
  • Paternity
  • Grandparent visitation
  • Issues involving the allocation of parental responsibility, family support proceedings, except those incidental to child abuse and neglect proceedings

West Virginia is divided into 27 Family Court circuits. 47 judges serve in these circuits and are elected to 8-year terms in non-partisan elections. It is mandatory for Family Court Judges to be admitted to the practice of law in West Virginia for at least five years before assuming office and to reside in the circuits where they serve.

HOW DOES THE WEST VIRGINIA MAGISTRATE COURT WORK?

West Virginia Magistrate Courts are trial courts of limited jurisdiction. The court's jurisdiction covers:

  • Civil cases in which the amount in dispute does not exceed $10,000
  • Misdemeanor cases
  • conduct of preliminary hearings in felony cases
  • Issuing and recording of affidavits
  • Complaints
  • Arrest warrants
  • Search warrants
  • Setting of bail and making decisions concerning proposed plea agreements
  • Collection of court costs, cash bonds, and fines
  • Issuing of emergency protective orders in cases involving domestic violence
  • Entering domestic violence petitions into the Domestic Violence Database and Registry
  • Mental hygiene matters (in counties where there are no mental hygiene commissioners)

Appeals of Magistrate Court decisions are heard in the Circuit Courts. There are 158 magistrates in West Virginia with a minimum of 2 magistrates in each of the state's 55 counties.

Magistrates are elected to 4-year terms in non-partisan elections. West Virginia law does not require a Magistrate to be an attorney. The Supreme Court of Appeals supervises Magistrates' duties in West Virginia.

WHAT ARE WEST VIRGINIA APPELLATE COURTS?

West Virginia does not have an intermediate appellate court. The Supreme Court is the sole appellate court and the court of last resort in the state. The Court has jurisdiction to review decisions over all types of cases heard in the Circuit Courts even in cases of affirmed convictions on appeal from the Magistrate Courts. Family Court judgments can also be appealed directly to the Supreme Court of Appeals if both parties involved in a case agree to bypass the Circuit Courts.

The Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction over cases relating to:

  • Original proceeding application for a writ
  • Bar/Judiciary matters
  • Certified questions
  • Advisory opinions

In an appeal hearing, the Supreme Court does not hold new trials but only hears oral arguments, and reviews the briefs from the attorneys, before issuing a written decision or opinion.

West Virginia Supreme Court consists of five Justices elected to 12-year terms in non-partisan elections. Members of the Supreme Court select one of the five Justices to serve as the Chief Justice for a one-year term. Supreme Court Justices are expected to have practiced law for at least 10 years. 

WHAT ARE WEST VIRGINIA TREATMENT COURTS?

West Virginia established some unique courts such as the adult drug courts, juvenile drug courts, and family treatment courts to help participants of the courts' specialty programs curb substance abuse and mental illness that may lead them to commit crimes.

Prosecutors and judges in the treatment courts carefully select offenders who may participate in treatment court programs. Registered sex offenders and persons who have a prior conviction for a felony crime of violence are not eligible for Treatment Court programs.

Treatment Court officials generally view the court's programs as inexpensive and more helpful than imprisonment for offenders who have committed non-violent crimes.

WHAT ARE WEST VIRGINIA BUSINESS COURTS?

West Virginia law also empowers the judicial system to establish Business Courts as divisions of the Circuit Courts. Business Courts' primary aim is to manage and resolve lawsuits involving commercial issues and disputes between businesses in the state.

The Business Court Division consists of seven active or senior status Circuit Court Judges appointed by the Chief Judge with the approval of the Supreme Court of Appeals. These judges are appointed to renewable 7-year terms which are staggered to ensure continuity of courts.

WHAT IS WEST VIRGINIA MASS LITIGATION PANEL?

The Supreme Court of West Virginia also established a Mass Litigation Panel that helps the judicial system resolves issues pertaining to mass litigation. The statutes for the establishment of the panel are obtained in the West Virginia Trial Court Rule 26.

Cases handled by the Mass Litigation Panel are usually referred and assigned to it by the Chief Justice. The Panel consists of seven active or senior status Circuit Court Judges as appointed by the Chief Justice. Judges are appointed to renewable three-year terms that are staggered to ensure continuity of courts. One of the seven justices is assigned as chairman to preside over the panel and make reports to the governing body - the Supreme Court.

HOW MANY CASES DOES THE WEST VIRGINIA COURT SYSTEM HANDLE ANNUALLY?

Over 250,000 cases are filed annually in West Virginia Courts. In 2018, the Circuit Courts recorded 43,285 total case filings. Of the 2018 total, 22,878 were civil case filings, 11,731 were criminal case filings, and 8,676 were juvenile case filings. In the same year, the trial courts of limited jurisdiction, the Magistrate Courts recorded a total of 208,276 case filings. Of this figure, 54,190 were civil filings, 149,678 were criminal filings, 4,408 were juvenile, and special proceedings filings. In the same year, the Mass Litigation Panel handled 4,975 cases, the Family court recorded 25, 883 case filings, and the Business Court received 12 cases.

In 2018, the Supreme Court recorded 937 total appeals by right, 202 total original jurisdiction, and other appeals. In total, 1139 appeals were filed with the Supreme Court of Appeals while a total of 1,143 cases were disposed of. In 2019, a total of 1,161 total appeals were filed with the court while a total of 962 cases were disposed of.

Below are caseload summaries for West Virginia courts in recent years.

Circuit Courts caseload summaries: 2014 - 2018

2018 2017 2016 2015 2014
Civil 22,878 25,175 25,821 27,109 30,816
Criminal 11,731 12,459 11,240 11,886 11,996
Juvenile 8,676 9,033 7,828 8,006 8,644
Total 43,285 46,667 44,889 47,001 51,456

Data provided by the West Virginia Judiciary

Family Courts caseload summaries: 2014 - 2018

2018 2017 2016 2015 2014
Divorce 9,374 9,444 9,496 10,401 10,809
Domestic Violence 11,561 11,464 11,492 12,194 12,180
Other Domestic Relations 4,948 5,114 5,699 7,308 9,116
Total 25,883 26,022 26,687 29,903 32,105

Data provided by the West Virginia Judiciary

Magistrate Court caseload summaries: 2014 - 2018

2018 2017 2016 2015 2014
Civil 54,190 51,074 50,607 36,396 37,554
Criminal 149,678 154,211 168,896 228,836 232,355
Juvenile & Special Proceedings 4,408 5,569 4,813 47,688 48,457
Total 208,276 210,854 224,316 312,920 318,366

Data provided by the West Virginia Judiciary

Mass Litigation Panel Case filings: 2015 -2018

2018 2017 2016 2015
Total Filings 4,975 5,185 6,825 5,281

Data provided by the West Virginia Judiciary

Business Court caseload summaries: 2014 - 2019

2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014
Cases Received 10 12 20 7 15 25
Cases Disposed 12 15 15 15 16 12

Data provided by the West Virginia Judiciary

Supreme Court caseload summaries: 2015 - 2019

2019 2018 2017 2016 2015
Total Appeals by Right 929 937 946 996 1,011
Disposed 728 974 991 1,051 1,120
Total Original Jurisdiction and Others 232 202 205 225 233
Disposed 234 169 224 227 227
Total Appeal Filings 1,161 1,139 1,151 1,221 1,244
Total Case Disposed 962 1,143 1,215 1,278 1,347

Data provided by the West Virginia Judiciary

First names in West Virginia