West Virginia Civil Court Records
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What are West Virginia Civil Court Records?
West Virginia civil court records refer to any writing generated during civil court proceedings. Civil court records in the state are maintained by the West Virginia Judiciary and can be accessed, inspected and copied by interested members of the public, except where otherwise stated by statutory law. These records typically include witness testimonies, deposition tapes, sworn affidavit, plaintiff and/or defendant information, trial transcripts and records of court actions, motions filed and judgments. Interested members of the public may find West Virginia civil court records in the jurisdiction where the case was heard.
Understanding the West Virginia Civil Court System
The state of West Virginia operates a unified court system which consists of two groups, the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Lower Courts. The lower courts are further divided into Circuit Courts, Family Courts and Magistrate Courts which are all spread out across the state. In detail, the West Virginia judiciary can be broken down as follows:
Supreme Court of Appeals
West Virginia is one of few jurisdictions with a single appellate court. The Supreme Court of Appeals is the state’s highest court and also a court of last resort. This court consists of five justices who hear appeals from cases that were heard in the state’s circuit courts. These justices reach decisions in appeals brought before them by listening to oral arguments presented by attorneys and reviewing these attorneys’ briefs. During court proceedings, witnesses are not interviewed, new testimony is not presented, and there is no jury. In addition to appeals from circuit courts, the Supreme Court of Appeals also hears appeals from administrative agencies and appeals from family courts in situations where both parties agree not to appeal directly to the circuit court. This court has exclusive jurisdiction over worker’s compensation appeals as well as original jurisdiction in proceedings involving, but not limited to, habeas corpus and certiorari. All decisions rendered by the Supreme Court of Appeals are considered final and may only be reversed by the Supreme Court of the United States. In addition to this, the Supreme Court of Appeals also has administrative and regulatory duties that constitutionally empower it to create and enforce rules governing the state of West Virginia’s judicial practices and procedures.
The West Virginia Circuit Courts are the state’s only general jurisdiction trial courts of record and have jurisdiction over all criminal and civil cases. The circuit courts also have the authority to hear appeals on cases from the family and magistrate courts as well as from administrative agencies. However, this authority does not extend to cases under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Appeals. In addition to this, the circuit courts also receive recommended orders from judicial officers who hear mental hygiene and juvenile matters. The West Virginia judiciary is divided into thirty-one circuits, and each county in the state has at least one courthouse.
With the exclusion of proceedings incidental to child abuse and neglect cases, which fall under the jurisdiction of the circuit courts, the West Virginia Family Courts have jurisdiction over cases involving family support proceedings, paternity, grandparent visitation, allocation of parental responsibility, divorce, annulment, and separate maintenance. These courts also hold final hearings in all domestic violence civil proceedings.
The Magistrate Courts have limited jurisdiction over certain types of criminal and civil cases. The jurisdiction of these courts in criminal cases includes misdemeanors, conducting preliminary examinations in felony cases, issuing arrest and search warrants, record affidavit, and complaints, setting bail and making decisions concerning proposed plea agreements as well as decisions concerning the collection of cash bonds, fines, and other court costs/levies. The Magistrate Courts also have jurisdiction over any civil cases involving less than $10,000 as well as most tenancy cases. In addition to this, Magistrate Courts can also issue emergency protective orders in domestic violence cases.
West Virginia Treatment Courts include adult drug courts and juvenile drug courts, and they are specially designed court programs created to reduce recidivism and substance abuse in offenders through the use of mandatory drug testing done periodically, appropriate sanctions and incentives as well as other rehabilitation services. Participants are usually chosen by prosecutors and judges and all activities of the treatment courts are supervised by judicial officers. Registered sex offenders or parties with a prior conviction for felonious crimes of violence cannot participate in these programs.
Mass Litigation Panel
This is a special panel created for the efficient management and resolution of mass litigations. Mass litigation, as defined by the West Virginia Trial Court Rule 26, refers to a situation where one or more circuit courts have pending civil actions which involve, but are not limited to, common questions of law or fact either in mass accidents or single catastrophic events in which a number of people are injured or personal injury mass torts implicating numerous claimants in connection with widely available or mass-marketed products. This panel consists of seven active or senior status circuit court judges who are appointed by the Supreme Court of Appeals, and some of its duties include developing and implementing methodologies for the expeditious resolution of cases referred to them as well developing and implementing plans for the central organization of mass litigation court files to the appropriate circuit.
Business Court Division
The Business Court is a special division of the circuit courts created in accordance with West Virginia State Code Chapter 51–2–15 for the efficient management and resolution of litigation involving disputes between businesses.
Cases heard in West Virginia Civil Courts
As mentioned earlier, the circuit courts are the state’s trial courts of record and have general jurisdiction over all civil matters. Some of the types of civil cases tried in West Virginia civil courts include:
- Breach of contract, unlawful termination and related cases
- Libel and slander cases
- Tenancy cases
What’s included in a West Virginia Civil court Record?
Court records, in general, tend to contain similar information. However, this information may vary depending on the court as well as the type of case that was filed and/or heard. Generally, West Virginia civil court records contain information such as the court case ID, litigants information, complaint(s) details, docket number, actions taken on the case, judge and attorney information, hearing dates, times and locations as well as the present status of the case.
Obtaining West Virginia Civil court Records
The West Virginia State Code Chapter 29B makes provision for interested members of the public to access public records. Pursuant to this law, any interested parties who wish to inspect and/or obtain copies of civil court records may do by any of the following means:
- Inspecting and/or obtaining records in-person
- Sending verbal and/or written requests to the appropriate record custodian
- Accessing records online
Additionally, publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.
How Do I Access West Virginia Civil Court Records in Person?
In-person requests are the primary means of inspecting and/or obtaining copies of civil court records in the state of West Virginia. This method is recommended for parties who are interested in obtaining information on a case that may be otherwise inaccessible by other methods. To obtain copies of civil court records in person, interested parties may wish to proceed through the following steps:
Identify The Right Court
As mentioned earlier, West Virginia is divided into 31 circuits with at least one courthouse located in each of the state’s counties. These courthouses are home to the state’s different lower courts, which all have varying levels of jurisdiction when it comes to civil cases. Therefore, the first step in making in-person requests for these records is identifying the particular court where the case in question was filed/heard. To aid members of the public with this step, the West Virginia judiciary maintains a court information directory that provides contact details for all courthouses as well as the courthouse officials in the state.
Gather Case Information
In accordance with the West Virginia public records law, interested members of the public who wish to access civil court records are required to provide the record custodian with any relevant information necessary to expedite record searches. The information required may vary depending on the court where the records are located, but they generally include the names of the litigants, the date the original complaint(s) was filed as well as the case file number of the record.
Visit the Court Record Custodian
After the right court has been identified by interested parties, the next step in accessing court records in person is visiting the office of the record custodian and making a request to inspect and/or copy the required records. Civil court records for the West Virginia judiciary are maintained by the county circuit clerks. Contact details for these circuit clerks can be gleaned from the court information directory provided in the ‘Identify the Right Court’ section above.
Provide Identification and Pay Any Required Fees
After locating the court, the record custodian and the required civil court records, interested parties who wish to obtain copies of these records may be required to provide a form of identification, usually a government-issued photo ID and pay any applicable fees, which is usually calculated by the type of record being requested, the number of copies required and the storage medium the record is being copied to. These fees may vary depending on the court.
How Do I Find West Virginia Civil Court Records by Mail?
Generally, the requirements for obtaining court records by mail include sending a written request for these documents to the record custodian. However, before sending a request, it is important that interested parties first establish that this option of obtaining civil court records is available at the court where the records are located. When this has been established, the interested party may then send a written request to the record custodian. This request should include the following:
- The names of the parties involved
- General information on the case
- Details of the requestor
- A self-addressed envelope
- Appropriate payment for copies of these records. This is usually in the form of money orders or checks made out to either the court or the office of the record custodian. (Most courts do not accept cash for requests made via mail).
Note that these requirements may vary by court, and so interested parties are advised to contact the record custodian for any other additional requirements.
How to Find West Virginia Civil court Records Online?
The West Virginia judiciary does not maintain an official centralized database through which interested members of the public may access civil court records online. However, the county circuit clerks have public terminals located in their offices which can be utilized by interested parties in accessing some of these records. In addition to this, civil court records may also be accessed via a number of unofficial third-party websites.
Interested parties have the option of accessing civil court records through third party aggregate sites. This method can be utilized by members of the public who wish to access civil court records from the state of West Virginia but are unable to do so in person or via mail due to physical and/or geographical constraints. Where permitted by statutory law, these websites may also obtain and deliver copies of these records to interested parties. To search for records on these sites, interested parties may be required to provide the names of the parties involved in the civil case and the location of the record in question.
Note: Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites and as such record availability may differ from official channels.
Are All West Virginia Civil Court Records Public?
According to West Virginia State Code Chapter 29B, public records are defined as any writing containing information prepared or received by a public body, the content or context of which relates to the conduct of the public’s business. Writing, as further defined by this law, is any documentary material regardless of its physical form or characteristics. Pursuant to this, civil court records are considered public records and, except where exempted by statutory law, are subject to inspection by members of the public. Some of these exempted records include:
- Information of a personal nature, disclosure of which would constitute an unreasonable invasion of privacy
- Juvenile records
- Trade secrets
- Certain law enforcement records
- Test questions and any other examination data used in the administration of a licensing, employment and academic examinations
Can I Access Sealed West Virginia Civil Court Records?
Pursuant to West Virginia state law, confidential and/or sealed civil court records may not be inspected by members of the public who do not have adequate legal authorization to unseal these records.
Are there Public Records of Mediation Processes in West Virginia?
The West Virginia judiciary defines mediation as an informal, non-adversarial process during which a neutral third party assists disputing parties in either resolving by agreement or examining some or all of the differences between them. In accordance with this judiciary’s Trial Court Rule 25.12, the mediation process and all records thereof shall be regarded as confidential. However, information divulged during the mediation process may be disclosed if specifically authorized by the parties involved.