Child abuse, neglect clogging court dockets

As a result of the state-wide exponential increase in child abuse and neglect proceedings, circuit court dockets are so full of child abuse and neglect cases that circuit judges have little time to hear, analyze, and rule on the other matters before their court.

Family court judges are well qualified to hear child abuse and neglect proceedings based upon their specialized knowledge, experience, and training. Several states understand this and place child abuse and neglect proceedings in their family courts with great success.

Next, West Virginia should be making generous use of its specialized courts, specifically, the Business Court Division. The West Virginia Business Court Division has operated since 2012 and is divided up between seven regions that cover the entire state. The seven Business Court Division judges are active circuit judges selected by the chief justice of the Supreme Court to serve based on their expertise and experience. The goal of the Business Court Division is to provide a timely and well-reasoned disposition for a narrow set of disputes involving complex commercial issues.

However, according to a 2017 annual report, only 81 of the 147 requests to refer litigation to the Business Court Division were granted. The request must go through the Chief Justice where he or she exercises ultimate control over the flow of cases to this separate docket.

Therefore, give the chief justice less control over the acceptance or denial of the cases by requiring certain types of cases be automatically referred (i.e., trademark, trade secrets, taxes) and make it easier to channel complex business litigation into this specialized court.

Transferring jurisdiction of child abuse and neglect proceedings from circuit to family court and increasing the use of the Business Court Division is achievable with a few small amendments and absolutely zero dollars in government spending.

The Legislature has a responsibility to taxpayers. If they create an entirely new layer of government when easier and cost-effective options are available, they are shirking that responsibility.

Nigel E. Jeffries