Virginia's court system is comprised of a Magistrate System, Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, General District Court, Circuit Court, Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.
Virginia has 32 judicial districts and a magistrate system in place to hear probable cause arguments and complaints of criminal conduct, determining if a person is eligible for bail.
The Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court hears all cases involving families and children. These courts are limited jurisdiction trial courts.
The General District Court of Virginia hears traffic cases, misdemeanor offenses and civil claims up to $25,000. This court conducts trials to decide cases. There are 32 General District Courts in the state.
Virginia's Circuit Court exercises general jurisdiction over all types of civil and criminal cases. This is also a trial court. The state has 120 Circuit Courts.
As the intermediate appellate court for the state, the Virginia Court of Appeals reviews cases from lower courts, including Circuit Courts. The Court of Appeals also presides over domestic relations cases, traffic infractions and non-death penalty criminal cases, appeals from the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission and administrative agencies. There are eleven judges in this court who sit in panels of three to decide its cases.
The Supreme Court of Virginia is the state's court of last resort and reviews decisions by the Court of Appeals and lower courts.
In 2016, the Virginia Supreme Court blocked Governor Terry McAuliffe's move to give more than 200,000 felons in the state their voting rights back. The high court stated in its decision to block the effort that it violated the state's constitution and legal limits of the governor's powers. Although the governor can reinstate voting rights to felons on an individual basis, he cannot grant them as a group and essentially rewrite the current laws on the matter. Bystanders assume this action was to help restore rights to minority groups during an election year to help voter turnout, knowing that minority groups such as African Americans are largely a Democrat-member group. Dissenting justices on the court stated that nowhere in the constitution does it state that the governor cannot reinstate voting rights to felons as a blanket order.
In 2006, Ricky Gray was convicted of murdering seven people on New Year's Day. He was sentenced to death, with an execution scheduled for March 16. His attorney filed for an appeal, allowing for a stay of his execution. They have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear alleged violations of Gray's constitutional rights and inadequate state court reviews. Virginia's Attorney General is asking the court to deny his request for a hearing, stating that Gray's claims have no basis.