By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
10:23 PM EDT, October 10, 2012
The headquarters of the state’s new business court division was unveiled Wednesday evening at the Berkeley County Judicial Center in Martinsburg.
At the ceremony, 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes, the chairman of the newly created division, said every state that has a business court was studied and efforts were made to glean the best aspects from each.
West Virginia became the 28th state to have a business court when the division’s formation was announced Sept. 11 by the state Supreme Court of Appeals.
The business court division will serve as a specialized court docket within circuit courts, in seven specific regions, and will govern and expedite litigation between businesses.
The headquarters for the division, the only arm of the state Supreme Court to be outside of Charleston, is in a second floor space of the Berkeley County Judicial Center that once held the 23rd Judicial Circuit’s law library.
The new headquarters space was remodeled and equipped for teleconferencing for about $10,000, according to Supreme Court Administrative Director Steven D. Canterbury. New furnishings include a large conference table and a large screen television for teleconferencing. Three land documents signed by Lord Fairfax in the 1700s were archivally framed and put on display in the space.
Canterbury said before Wednesday’s ceremony that there is no set amount in the high court’s budget for the business division, but expects costs to be minimal. Heather McClung, the former law librarian for the circuit, is staffing the headquarters for the court and is expected to be assisted by a staff member in Wilkes’ office at no additional cost to the state, officials said. Wilkes and three other circuit judges have been appointed by the state Supreme Court to handle business litigation that is channeled to the new division.
The division was set up in a way that insures residents from other parts of the state will not have to travel to Martinsburg to hear their case, Wilkes said.
Berkeley County Council President William L. “Bill” Stubblefield said in welcoming remarks he didn’t know why the state Supreme Court of Appeals chose the county, but added that he suspected it may be due to the region’s rapid growth, citing a few of the recent major business investments by Macy’s, Quad/Graphics and Essroc.
Stubblefield said the creation of a business court division will be good for the state and could very well encourage other businesses to invest in West Virginia.
Canterbury said before the ceremony that the business court will not negatively impact the flow of other cases in the state court system.
The cost of the business court division is being paid for by the taxpayers, according to Canterbury.
The trial court rule outlining how the division will function states that judges presiding in business litigation shall make all reasonable effort to conclude the case within 10 months.
Supreme Court Justice Robin Jean Davis, who spoke at the ceremony, was credited for her work in drafting Rule 29 for the business division.
Davis, who is seeking re-election, was joined at the ceremony by fellow Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin, who was not part of the program. Chief Justice Menis Ketchum and Justices Margaret Workman and Thomas E. McHugh were absent. 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge John C. Yoder, who also is vying for a seat on the high court bench and fellow circuit Judge David H. Sanders also attended the ceremony. Supreme Court candidates Letitia “Tish” Chafin and Allen Loughry were absent.
Following the unveiling of the sign leading into the new headquarters, a reception catered by the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown was held in the hallway in front of Circuit Clerk Virginia M. Sine’s office.
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