Bill Creating W.Va. Intermediate Court of Appeals Dies in the House of Delegates

Mar 6, 2020

A bill that would have created an intermediate court of appeals in West Virginia was rejected Friday in the House of Delegates. Lawmakers also rejected a motion to reconsider the vote on the bill, which effectively kills the measure for the remainder of session. 

The proposal found in Senate Bill 275 has been one of the marquee agenda items for the Republican-led Senate in recent years. The majority party argued that the court would guarantee litigants a right to an appeal, create a wider body of precedent for civil decisions and allow for a more business-friendly environment.  

Ahead of Friday’s vote, the House of Delegates had significantly altered the bill by pushing back the start date to January 2023 and widening the jurisdiction of the proposed intermediate appellate court. The House Judiciary Committee added criminal cases and lawmakers also adopted amendments on the floor, including one that would have added child welfare cases to the intermediate court.

Lawmakers focused Friday’s debate on the necessity and cost of the proposed intermediate court system. 

“We're basing the facts of the Finance Committee off of a study from 2009 and then again from 1999 —  from 10 and 20 years ago,” Del. Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, said. “And you're right, we probably did warrant an intermediate court in 2009. Our court system was a lot different than it is now.”

House Judiciary Vice Chair Moore Capito, R-Kanawha, called on delegates who supported amendments that widened the scope of the proposed court to also vote in support of the full measure. 

“Let's be consistent. Every person in here that I've talked to — and that I've heard speak about a concern for the increase in skyrocketing costs of this court — voted yesterday to exponentially increase costs,” Capito said. “That's inconsistent.”

Del. Scott Cadle, R-Mason, hinted that there were attempts to persuade his vote on Senate Bill 275 with promises of running other bills he saw as a priority.

“I said, ‘Well I might vote for it, let me think about it,’" Cadle said. "After I thought about it. You know what I said?  ‘I'm Scott Cadle and I don't take no crap from nobody, I don't back down from nobody, and I don't care if I don't get anything passed’ — which I know I won't. I can go home and tell my people, ‘At least I stood there for you. I work for the small guy.’

After an hour and a half of debate, the House of Delegates ultimately voted 44-56 to reject the measure. 

But the discussion and voting on the bill did not end there. 

Delegates wound up working their way through a series of procedural votes that killed the measure off for the remainder of the session, which ends Saturday night at midnight. 

Following the rejection of Senate Bill 275, House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison moved to reconsider the vote. 

“It's odd that you make a motion to reconsider and then ask the body to vote red. But, I'm doing that so that the vote we just made can end the discussion on this bill this year,” Miley said. “It ends the browbeating, it ends the lobbying, it ends the threatening. It is a symbolic message of what our priorities are.”

But Miley’s effort was stalled by another parliamentary hurdle when Del. Geoff Foster, R-Putnam, moved to table Miley’s motion to reconsider the vote. 

Foster’s motion to table Miley’s motion failed 43-57.

Having returned to Miley’s motion to reconsider, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, clarified that a rejection would kill the bill for the remainder of session. 

Miley’s motion to reconsider was defeated on a 42-58 vote, killing the bill for the remainder of the session.