West Virginia Court Case Lookup | StateRecords.org (2024)

West Virginia Court Case Lookup

In West Virginia, a court case is a legal proceeding in which one party brings a dispute or allegation against another party in a court of law. The purpose of bringing the case to court is so that the judge or jury serves justice by determining guilt or liability.

There are six distinct types of courts within the West Virginia court system, each of which serves a distinct purpose within the judicial system. The parties involved in a case, the nature of the dispute, and the amount at stake determines which court will hear the case.

  • The Supreme Court of Appeals: The Supreme Court of Appeals being the highest court in the state, is the highest appellate court in the state, and it has administrative and judicial authority over the entire state court system. The West Virginia Constitution grants the Supreme Court the authority to establish rules governing court procedure and practice. The only court to which decisions of the Supreme Court of Appeals may be appealed is the Supreme Court of the United States, which may or may not accept an appeal. All Supreme Court hearings are conducted without juries, testimony, or witnesses, and typically involve only attorneys defending their client's case.
  • The Intermediate Appellate Court (ICA): The West Virginia Intermediate Court of Appeals was signed into law on April 9, 2021, and it opened on July 1, 2022. It is the state's second-highest court. Oral arguments before the ICA are granted at the discretion of the judges, but a written decision on the merits is issued in every properly filed and within the Court's jurisdiction appeal. Unless overruled or modified by the Supreme Court of Appeals, all ICA opinions, orders, and decisions are binding precedent for all circuit courts, family courts, magistrate courts, and state administrative agencies.
  • Circuit Courts: Circuit Courts are the only general jurisdiction trial courts of record in West Virginia. The Courts hear appeals from Municipal Courts, Magistrate Courts, and administrative agencies of the state. They may also review the Family Court's decision, unless all parties agree to appeal directly to the Supreme Court of Appeals. In addition, the West Virginia Circuit Court has jurisdiction over all civil cases in equity, all felonies and misdemeanors, habeas corpus, quo warranto, mandamus, and all civil cases at law exceeding $7,500.00. The state's 55 counties are divided into 31 circuits, and each county contains a courthouse where the circuit judge presides.
  • Magistrate Courts: The Magistrate Court has limited legal authority. It hears misdemeanor and civil cases worth less than $10,000.00. In addition to conducting preliminary investigations in felony cases, the court ensures the application of state laws, court procedures, and local ordinances. The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals exercises administrative oversight over the Magistrate Court. The Magistrate Court issues and records arrest warrants, affidavits, and search warrants in criminal cases.
  • Family Courts: Family Court is on the same level as the state's Magistrate Court and also has limited jurisdiction. The West Virginia Family Court hears cases involving paternity, divorce, grandparent visitation, separate maintenance, and assignment of parental responsibilities. The court also hears family support cases, excluding those involving child neglect and child abuse.
  • West Virginia Municipal Court: Municipal Court is primarily responsible for handling cases involving violations of city ordinances. Any municipality may establish by ordinance the establishment and management of a municipality, as well as the election or appointment of a judge for the Municipal Court. They may also provide by law that, in the Municipal Court judge's absence, other officials designated by ordinance or the municipal court clerk may serve in that capacity. In areas without Municipal Courts, municipal ordinance violations are heard by Magistrate Courts.
  • West Virginia Legislative Claims Commission: This was previously known as the Court of Claims. West Virginia Legislative Claims Commission has exclusive authority over civil claims brought against the State of West Virginia and its agencies. The Commission handles cases such as contract disputes, construction contract disputes, property damage, personal injury, damage and injury caused by road hazards, wrongful imprisonment, claims under the Crime Victims Compensation Act, and claims for damages caused by escaped inmates from State institutions. The Commission does not hear cases involving workers' compensation. There is no cap on the amount of damages that can be recovered and individuals may represent themselves in court. After a claim is submitted, the appropriate state agency investigates it and then files an Answer. The Commission holds hearings in Charleston, Fairmont, Martinsburg, Princeton, and Wheeling, but handles administrative aspects of cases from a Charleston office located in the State Capitol Building.

Currently, the West Virginia court system operates no online repository of court records. However, requestors may be able to obtain scanned copies of some case records from the West Virginia Public Service Commission. The courthouses that hear criminal and civil cases maintain their respective case files.

To obtain court records in West Virginia, requestors must identify the courthouse where the case was held. Prior to their visit, individuals may be required to contact the court to confirm the availability of records and other requirements necessary to inspect or copy records. The Judiciary provides a county map with detailed contact information for each court type, including physical addresses and the names of court judges.

Those who need to obtain copies of West Virginia court records who do not wish to appear in person may do so by phone or mail. To make a phone request, they must contact the court clerk and provide the case number or case name. The Clerk's Office will then inform the requestors of the request's price and payment options. To obtain court records by mail in West Virginia, interested parties must submit a written request to the appropriate courthouse and county. There may also be specialized forms for each request at some courts. These requests should include the following information at a minimum:

  • Requesters' names
  • Requesters' addresses
  • Case numbers or names, or any other information that makes retrieval simple
  • Daytime phone number of the requestor
  • Proof of payment (the amount must be confirmed by the clerk's office before requesting a court document).

Are Court Cases Public Record in West Virginia?

Yes. Court records in West Virginia are accessible to citizens and other members of the public, unless they are exempt from disclosure by another law. The West Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) mandates that all government records are accessible to the general public. The majority of government documents, regardless of their physical forms, are available for inspection or duplication by interested individuals or organizations. Requesters are not required to provide a reason when requesting to view or copy public court records.

Can I Access West Virginia Court Records Online?

Currently, the West Virginia court system does not maintain an online database of court records. The courthouses that hear criminal and civil cases maintain their respective case files. However, requestors may be able to obtain scanned copies of some case records through the West Virginia Public Service Commission.

How to Conduct a West Virginia Court Case Search by Name

In West Virginia, interested parties can look up court cases by calling or visiting the court where the case was heard. To conduct a court case search by name, requestors must, among other things, contact the courthouse in person, by mail, or by phone and provide the case information required to search for the relevant court records.

What is a Court Case Number?

A court case number is a unique identifier assigned to a legal proceeding by the court Clerk's Office. A case number is assigned when a document initiating a case is filed. The case number is written on the original document, and all copies are returned to the filing attorney or party. It appears on every official document related to a case and is used throughout the court system to identify it (from filing to disposition).

Most often, the assignment of case numbers is strictly regulated to ensure that no two cases receive the same case number and that no case number is skipped. Cases that are reopened or remanded by the Supreme Court are not assigned new case numbers.

A case number may contain letters, numbers, or special characters (such as a dash), and its format differs depending on the court where the case was filed. The case number enables straightforward and distinctive identification of specific civil and criminal proceedings. It identifies the filing year, the filing office, and the judicial officer(s) assigned to the case.

How to Conduct a Case Number Search in West Virginia

A case number distinguishes one lawsuit from another and is assigned by court personnel upon the filing of a lawsuit. Since the West Virginia Judiciary does not maintain an online database of court records or cases, individuals seeking their case numbers must contact the clerk of the courthouse where their cases were filed.

The clerk of the courthouse where the relevant case was filed may provide the case number upon request. Typically, finding case numbers requires only the party's full name and a few case-specific details. A requestor who wishes to visit the courthouse can find the address of the desired courthouse in the West Virginia court directory.

How to Remove Court Cases From Public Record in West Virginia

West Virginia expunges the criminal records of adults. The expungement of a criminal record restores the petitioner's record to its status prior to the offense. The state removes or seals the record from all official sources, preventing the public from accessing it. Employers, landlords, financial institutions, etc. cannot view an expunged record. Only law enforcement and judges are permitted to have access to sealed records. In West Virginia, expungement is somewhat complicated. The ability to expunge a record depends on the type of offense, the disposition or result, and the timing.

When a court in West Virginia grants an expungement, it orders all state agencies to expunge their respective records. This includes law enforcement, courts, and all other state record-keeping agencies. The Crime Identification Bureau (CIB) will delete or seal the expunged record and send the court clerk's office a certified letter confirming the expungement.

How to Request Expungement.

Here are the nine steps to submit an expungement application:

  1. Petitioner must obtain a copy of their criminal history record from the West Virginia State Police Criminal Identification Bureau (CIB).
  2. Fill out the expungement form. A petitioner must visit the circuit-court clerk in the county where their case was handled or the West Virginia Courts website to obtain the form. There are separate application forms for misdemeanor and felony convictions.
  3. Assemble all supporting documentation, such as certified copies of court documents from the clerk and copies of program or educational certificates.
  4. Pay the required fee. Petitioners may be required to pay a nominal fee for court documents.
  5. Create duplicates of everything. It is suggested that the petitioner create an additional copy for his or her records.
  6. The petitioner must then submit the petition for expungement along with the supporting documents to the court clerk in the county where they were charged.
  7. Send or serve copies of the “Petition to Expunge” to the following entities:
    1. The Superintendent of the State Police
    2. The Prosecuting Attorney
    3. The Chief of Police
    4. The Warden where the petitioner was incarcerated
    5. The Court that handled the petitioner’s case.
      It is essential that the petitioner adhere to all filing instructions precisely. If they do not adhere, the petition will be dismissed.
  8. Pay the $200.00 fee associated with the expungement petition.
    Cash, credit card, money order, and certified checks are acceptable methods of payment. Petitions for expungement of criminal charges are free. The petitioner has the right to have the fee waived if they cannot pay it. The petitioner must submit a Financial Affidavit and Application for a fee waiver, so as to be assessed for it. The application for a fee waiver should prove that they have a low income and are unable to pay the fee. The petitioner can obtain information on the fee waiver and its application from the clerk, proceed to complete the affidavit and application, and submit them to the clerk. Afterwards, the judge will determine whether the petitioner is entitled to a fee waiver.
  9. Wait for the Court’s Response.
    After submitting an expungement petition, the petitioner must wait several days. If someone has any objection to the expungement petition, they must file the objection within 30 days. The petitioner then has an additional 30 days to respond. Within sixty (60) days, the court must either grant the expungement, schedule a hearing, or reject the petition due to its incompleteness or the petitioner's ineligibility. Current West Virginia law only allows one opportunity to file for expungement.

If the petition for expungement of a conviction is granted, the petitioner must pay $100 to the CIB to process the expungement in their records. Therefore, the total cost of expunging a conviction is $300.

How to Check a Court Case Status in West Virginia

Since there are no online case search tools in West Virginia, the best way to determine the status of a case is to either visit the courthouse or contact the court clerk. In order for the court clerk to check the status of a court case, the requestor must provide the case number, the names of the persons involved in the case, or the case filing date. Typically, the clerk can locate a case using only the parties' names. However, it is helpful to provide as much information as possible to ensure the correct case is retrieved.

How to Find Supreme Court Decisions in West Virginia.

Decisions of the Supreme Court are referred to as Supreme Court Opinions. According to the West Virginia FOIA, Supreme Court Opinions are also classified as public records and are therefore made available to the public via online access. Opinions are usually released by the Clerk's Office.

What Percentage of Court Cases Go to Trial in West Virginia?

According to the annual statistics report for 2021, over 218,000 cases were filed in West Virginia. However, only a small percentage of these cases proceed to the trial phase of a case. Up to 97 percent of civil cases are resolved without a trial, according to a publication by the American Judges Association. While a minority of these cases are dismissed or otherwise resolved, the vast majority are resolved through plea bargains, mutual compromise, and diversion programs.

How Long Does a Court Case Last in West Virginia?

In West Virginia, unless otherwise specified by law, a final judgment in an administrative agency appeal must be rendered within six (6) months of the appeal's filing.

In General Civil Cases, the final judgment must be rendered within 18 months of the complaint being filed. In certain instances, the final judgment in other civil cases must be rendered within six months of the case's filing. In any case, for Post-trial Motions, an order shall be entered on post-trial motions within two months of submission.

How to File a Case in Court in West Virginia

Within the court system, "filing" refers to the initiation of an action to resolve a civil or criminal dispute using established legal procedures.

To file a case in West Virginia, the plaintiff is required to take the following steps:

  1. Go to the Magistrate Clerk’s office in the county where the problem is to be addressed and ask for a Civil Complaint.
  2. Plaintiff should fill in their name and address. Thereafter, fill in the defendant’s name and address. A copy of the papers will be served to the defendant. The exact name and physical address of the defendant is needed (not a P.O. Box), so that the papers can be delivered to the address.
  3. Plaintiff will be required to write a brief statement of why they think the defendant owes them money.
  4. If the plaintiff cannot afford the court filing fee, the plaintiff should ask the Magistrate Clerk for a “Fee Waiver Form”.

The Clerk will review the information in the Civil Complaint form and tell the plaintiff if it will be necessary for them to pay filing fees. In a situation where the plaintiff cannot afford the filing fees, then the plaintiff should speak with the Court Clerk, as they might be qualified for a fee waiver.

What Does It Mean if a Court Case Was Resolved Before the Trial Date?

If a court case was resolved prior to the trial date, it indicates that the parties were able to reach a settlement without going to trial. This alternative route for settling the case may involve:

  • Diversion program: A pre-trial sentencing procedure that permits a defendant in a less severe criminal case to avoid a structured trial and criminal conviction in exchange for certain conditions, such as the completion of a rehabilitation program, community service, or fines. etc.
  • Dismissal: When a party requests or the court orders that a case be dismissed prior to trial. In general, it is the act of terminating a criminal prosecution, a lawsuit, or one of its causes of action voluntarily by one of the parties or by a judge's ruling.
  • Mutual compromise: This occurs when the parties to a lawsuit settle their dispute prior to trial. Such a case is considered resolved and no further proceedings will be initiated.
West Virginia Court Case Lookup | StateRecords.org (2024)
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