August 6, 1873: First Meeting of State Supreme Court of Appeals

Aug 6, 2019

Supreme Court Chamber
Credit Thorney Lieberman / West Virginia Supreme Court

On August 6, 1873, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals met for the first time in the Jefferson County seat of Charles Town. During the state’s first 10 years, Supreme Court proceedings had been held solely at the state capitals, respectively Wheeling and Charleston. In 1873, though, the legislature decided to rotate the court’s three annual sessions among Charleston, Wheeling, and Charles Town.

In days of poor transportation, the rotating court allowed more people to attend. The legislature’s act specified Charles Town as the appeals site for all cases related to the eight easternmost counties: Jefferson, Berkeley, Morgan, Hampshire, Hardy, Mineral, Grant, and Pendleton.

While many saw the rotation system as a constructive development, some were less than pleased. A Wheeling newspaper kidded that perhaps the Supreme Court should also hold sessions in parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania and focus on the most-popular locations for making moonshine liquor since that was apparently the leading crime of the day.

The rotation system among Charleston, Wheeling, and Charles Town continued until 1912, when the Supreme Court was established permanently in Charleston.