Recently, the West Virginia Supreme Court paid a visit to Marshall University, where it held three hearings in the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center. The occasion was the university’s Constitution Week, which lasted through September 27th. Aside from the Supreme Court’s appearance, the week also included an Amicus Curiae lecture given by Thomas E. Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. The Supreme Court’s visit to campus was the first since 2009.
The three hearings covered a range of issues. One was whether a neighbor could order another neighbor’s dog euthanized after the dog injured a two-year-old child. Another was whether negligence was involved in a situation where teenage girls were given alcohol and later died. The third involved a case of first-degree murder. The Supreme Court justices specifically chose these cases because they thought they would be of general interest to Marshall students, and allow them to understand how the legal process works. One professor, Marybeth Beller, stated that the Supreme Court’s visit would be beneficial for students who planned to attend law school. Among other things, it demonstrated how much preparation was involved in an attorney effectively representing his or her client, which was something students could not learn from class participation alone.
The West Virginia Supreme Court has made five appearances at Marshall — not coincidentally, named after John Marshall, the groundbreaking United States Supreme Court justice — in the past eight years. Marshall’s faculty hopes that this tradition will continue for many years to come.
We at the Wolfe Law Firm support any efforts to educate students and the general public about the legal system in this state. It is especially important for people to learn about the Supreme Court, given the vastly important part that it plays in our daily lives. The West Virginia Supreme Court is a court of last resort, hearing appeals on decisions made by the circuit courts, which are the state trial courts. In fact, the Supreme Court is the only appeals court in the state — making West Virginia just one of 11 states to have a single appeals court. There are no intermediate courts. The West Virginia Supreme Court is among the busiest of its kind, hearing appeals on matters ranging from criminal convictions to workers compensation to certain family court appeals. Significant cases before the West Virginia Supreme Court include whether clients of a nursing home are bound by arbitration clauses in the contracts and whether Mining Safety and Health Officials can be held liable for negligence under state law.
Seeing how seriously the highest court takes its responsibilities will enhance its reputation, and that of the legal community, to students and the general public. It may hopefully also result in more students choosing to become West Virginia criminal defense attorneys, or personal injury attorneys, or employment or family law attorneys, whatever may be their preference. People are always in need of an attorney with both experience and integrity, but they are too often few and far between. Perhaps events like Constitution Week will create a few more of them.