The West Virginia court system consists of Municipal Courts, Magistrate Courts, Family Courts, Circuit Courts and Supreme Court.
West Virginia Municipal Courts
Local Municipal Courts in West Virginia are administered in cities and towns, and hear cases of traffic offenses and municipal violations. More serious cases may be sent directly to the Circuit Courts.
West Virginia Magistrate Courts
Magistrate Courts operate at the county level in West Virginia, with at least two magistrates per county. These magistrates enforce state and local laws in civil cases up to $10,000, misdemeanor cases and preliminary felony criminal proceedings. These are the courts that set bail amounts and make decisions about court costs, fines and plea agreements.
West Virginia Family Courts
There are 27 Family Courts in West Virginia, with jurisdiction over divorce and annulment, paternity cases, visitation, custody and child support, and domestic violence civil cases. 45 judges preside over these courts.
West Virginia Circuit Courts
West Virginia's Circuit Courts have general jurisdiction over civil cases up to $2,500; equity matters; habeus corpus, mandamus and quo warranto proceedings; felonies and misdemeanors. These courts also hear appeals from Magistrate Courts, Municipal Courts and administrative agencies. There are 31 Circuit Courts and 70 judges in these courts.
West Virginia Supreme Court
The Supreme Court of Appeals is the state's court of last resort. There are five justices who serve this court, and West Virginia is one of only nine states which only have one appellate court. This court hears appeals from all lower courts, including those from Circuit Courts, Magistrate Courts and administrative agency hearings. This court does not preside over trials, but rather reviews the decision and court records from prior trials in the lower courts.
West Virginia Notable Court Cases
In 2012, Skylar Neese was reported missing, and her two "'best friends" admitted to stabbing her to death six months later. Her body was abandoned in the woods and later recovered. The defendants, Shelia Eddy and Rachel Shoaf, stated they killed Neese because they didn't want to be her friend any longer. Shoaf was sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment and Eddy received life imprisonment.
In 2002, Samantha Burns, a Marshall University Community and Technical College student was reported missing. Three years later, Brandon Basham and Chadrick Fulks admitted they abducted and killed her, though her remains have never been recovered. Basham and Fulks are currently on death row.
Shawn Lester pleaded guilty in 2012 to the sniper shooting of Jeanie Patton. He is currently serving a 40-year sentence. Two other people, Okey Ray Meadows Jr. and Gary Carrier Jr. were also killed in similar fashion, though no evidence that Lester committed the crime has surfaced.
In 1880, African-American citizens were not allowed to serve on juries in West Virginia. Taylor Strauder was a black man who was convicted by an all-white jury, and later appealed his conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court stating that the exclusion of African-Americans on the jury violated the Equal Protection Clause and Fourteenth Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed and vacated the conviction.