West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis addressed questions and concerns of local residents Tuesday when she hosted an open exchange at Buckhannon Rotary meeting.
One topic of discussion involved the first business litigation court in the state, set to open today. Davis said the state Supreme Court has asked her to take the leading role of working on the trial court rules for the new court.
Rotarians were offered the opportunity to ask Davis questions. Stephen Foster, the executive director for the Upshur County Economic Development Authority, asked Davis if the state needs a permanent court of appeal.
"A lot of businesses will not locate here, particularly those with consumer-related businesses, without having a chance to know that they're going to have a second chance to present their case," Foster said.
Davis responded by saying "there is simply no need for an intermediate appellate court in West Virginia. The West Virginia Supreme Court simply gets the job done now."
Of 33 business cases reviewed in the past year, a business lawyer's statistics showed 22 were favorable, 8 were unfavorable and 3 were neutral toward their respective businesses, Davis said.
Davis believes West Virginia now has a climate where the state Chamber of Commerce and its lawyers think they get a "fair shake" in the state Supreme Court.
"Why in the world would we add another layer of government and tax the citizens of West Virginia millions of additional dollars each year for an intermediate appellate court just because the United States Chamber says we need one?" Davis said. "I think less government is better. We've taken positive approaches to respond, and our own state chamber says we're getting the job done."
Davis also said that the court spent a tremendous amount of time in 2010 revising the appellate court rules because of the concern that the justices were not reviewing every petition for appeal that was filed with the West Virginia Supreme Court. Davis served as chief justice that year and said her focus was to revise the appellate court rules.
There is now a decision on every petition that has been filed before the state Supreme Court. Before, the court gave no reasons why it refused a petition and didn't include case law examples as references.
Now, as a response to every petition filed, Davis said reasoning is given in writing, including an understanding of how and why the court came to a conclusion and citations of the case law that were relied upon in that decision.
"So for any business to say that they do not get a full and thorough review is simply wrong," Davis said.
Davis said she thinks the state Supreme Court has come a long way, and she hopes to make a big impact. She also assured Buckhannon Rotarians that the state Supreme Court doesn't have any political agenda other than to follow the law and apply the law.
"We don't want to go back to the days when it was highly divided and politicized," she said. "That didn't do the court any good, and it certainly didn't do business or the citizens of West Virginia any good. I think we've made major progress."
Rotary member Joyce Harris Thacker, director of the Upshur County Family Resource Network, said she has been impressed with the work of Davis, particularly in the areas of children and family issues.
"I am struck by her dedication to children and families, including the expansion of parent education programs, establishing the child abuse and neglect online database, along with additions to the rules regarding proceedings for child abuse and neglect, as well as juvenile proceedings," Thacker said. "Justice Davis was instrumental in the establishment of the Domestic Violence Registry. She is a true champion of education for our youth on multiple levels."