Editorial Roundup: West Virginia

Bluefield Daily Telegraph. July 12, 2022.

Editorial: Intermediate court: Finally in session for W.Va.

West Virginia’s long-planned and much debated Intermediate Court of Appeals is finally in session, offering a path to handle civil cases that otherwise may or may not be heard by the state Supreme Court of Appeals.

Signed into law on April 9, 2021, the new intermediate court includes a three-judge panel that hears appeals from the lower courts before they advance to the state Supreme Court of Appeals.

In the past, many frivolous lawsuits introduced on the local level were automatically appealed to the state Supreme Court, overloading the high court’s docket in the process and contributing to a perception that the Mountain State was home to an unfriendly business climate.

Now the new intermediate appeals court will be able to serve as a screening tool for those frivolous lawsuits before they reach the high court. The cases will either be accepted or rejected on their legal grounds at the intermediate court level. That gives the West Virginia Supreme Court more leeway in which cases will be heard while also helping to ease its workload.

Judge Daniel W. Greear, who is one of the judges appointed by Gov. Jim Justice to the new intermediate court, says 41 other states already have an intermediate court, so West Virginia was late in moving in that direction.

“This offers an extra layer of appellate review,” Greear said. “We were in the minority for not having this.”

According to Greear, the intermediate court will not hear criminal case appeals from local circuit courts and will instead focus on four areas: civil cases from local circuit court appeals; from family courts (except for appeals from criminal domestic violence and child abuse and neglect proceedings, which will still go through circuit court); appeals from state agencies or administrative law judges; and appeals related to workers’ compensation.

The three-judge panel also includes Judges Thomas E. Scarr and Charles Lorensen. All three judges were sworn in on May 1. The court became operational in late June.

Greear estimates that the new court will probably hear between 800 to a thousand cases a year.

While it took far too long for West Virginia to catch up with a majority of the other states in terms of having an intermediate court system, the long-overdue appeals court is finally in session.

There are many advantages to having an intermediate court.

It will guarantee a right of appeal and add stability to the legal system, while also allowing the West Virginia Supreme Court to focus on those legal issues of the utmost importance facing the state. Furthermore, it will make the court system more efficient and business friendly in the way it handles civil and workers compensation cases.

This is another significant win for West Virginia.

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The Journal. July 8, 2022.

Editorial: Dawdling is costing us in emergency funds

Gov. Jim Justice announced this week the Federal Emergency Management Agency has turned down the state’s request for emergency funding after spring flooding in Cabell, Putnam and Roane counties. It’s a shame, but one can hardly blame FEMA, given the way we’ve handled emergency funding after floods over the past several years.

In this case, FEMA reportedly said the flooding in May did not reach the level of warranting federal assistance. Certainly residents of the affected counties might disagree. And of course, the state has 30 days to appeal the decision.

“We’re going to push as hard as we possibly can, but it’s a disappointment to tell you the truth,” Justice said.

A disappointment, perhaps, but not a surprise.

In this case, federal decision-makers already know West Virginia has stung them a bit, when it comes to disaster funding. In the same month the most recent flooding hit, the Mountain State was — again — labeled a “slow spender” by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Such a designation comes when a state has spent less than 10 percent of the monthly pace required to fully use the grant by the grant’s target closeout.

In other words, the federal government knows we tend to dawdle and get creative with taxpayer dollars.

It’s biting us now. Perhaps those arguing in an appeal will find ways to prove we’ve seen the error of our ways, and that the mistakes of the past should not harm those who are now trying to rebuild in Cabell, Putnam and Roane counties.

But we shouldn’t hold our breath. It seems the folks who hand out federal money are onto us.

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Parkersburg News and Sentinel. July 12, 2022.

Editorial: Troopers: New class answers the call for West Virginia

When many of us consider whether we could handle — or are willing to handle — the responsibilities borne by a West Virginia State trooper, the answer is a hard “no.” It takes a special individual to be willing to do all that is required, and face all that might be encountered, while serving and protecting the people of the Mountain State. Few are lining up to give it a try.

But last week 26 men and women graduated as the 70th Cadet Class of the West Virginia State Police.

“They are a good group of men and women,” 1st Sgt. J.C. “Jay” Powers, director of professional development, said, according to WV MetroNews.

Since Jan. 17, these troopers have been in the classroom and in the field, completing 800 hours of training. They’ve put in the work, now it’s time to do the job. As the class was told during the graduation ceremony by Col. Jan Cahill, superintendent of the WVSP, “you can make a difference in people’s lives and you can make a difference in the communities you serve.”

They can and will, but MetroNews reported Powers is hoping there will be a larger class next year, though he knows it will be a challenge.

“In this climate of everything going on in the country, it’s hard to recruit law enforcement. So we as the West Virginia State Police are excited to get these men and women out there,” Powers said.

It is not for everyone, and there are as many reasons as ever to decide against such a career. But for those who feel called, that means the need is as great as ever.

Congratulations, to this year’s graduating class of troopers. Now is the time for next year’s class to start thinking about whether they have what it takes.

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