Quick Facts About the VA Courts
The judicial branch of Virginia is made up of that Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, Virginia’s General District Courts and finally the Circuit Courts.
VA Courts: Supreme Court
Virginia’s Supreme Court is the highest ranked court in Virginia. It mainly hears appeals that come up from the trial-level Circuit Courts, along with cases involving criminal law, administrative law, and family law that come from Virginia’s Court of Appeals. Out of all VA courts and other national courts, Virginia’s Supreme court is one of the oldest judicial continuously active bodies in the United States.
Currently. the Supreme Court of Virginia consists of seven justices who are elected by a majority vote made by the General Assembly’s two houses. The term for justices lasts twelve years. In order to meet the eligibility standards of justices, an individual must be a current resident of Virginia and a Virginia Bar member a minimum of five years.
Although Virginia’s Supreme Court has both an original and appellate jurisdiction, the primary function of the court is to look over decisions made by the lower courts, such as the Court of Appeals. Virginia law prevents an appeal to go to the Supreme Court except in cases where State Corporation Commission, the death penalty, or the disbarment of an attorney is involved.
VA Courts: Court of Appeals
The Virginia Court of Appeals is a body made up of eleven judges that hears appeals from decisions made by Virginia’s circuit courts as well as decisions from the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission. These decisions from the circuit court cases can be regarding final judgments, orders, or decrees divorce, affirmance or annulment of a marriage, spousal or child support, custody, disposition of child control, or domestic relations cases.
Furthermore, this VA court can consider appeal petitions regarding criminal convictions and traffic issues that do not involve the death penalty, circuit court decisions regarding concealed weapon permit applications, and certain preliminary rulings in specific felony cases. The court also has the jurisdiction to write writs of mandamus, and writs of actual innocence as well.
VA Courts: General District Courts
The General District Court of Virginia is the lowest court within the VA court system, but it is the one that most citizens interact with. The jurisdiction of the court is typically limited to just traffic cases and other minor misdemeanors as well as civil cases with amounts of under $15,000. In Virginia, there are 32 general district courts, each with at least one judge.
VA Courts: Circuit Courts
The Circuit Courts of Virginia are the state trial courts that have general jurisdiction in Virginia. These VA courts can hear both civil and criminal cases. For the civil cases, the circuit court has the authority to try the cases even with amount in question over $4,500 as well as the exclusive jurisdiction over claims over $15,000.
In criminal cases, the court acts as a trial court for felony charges and misdemeanors that were originally charged at that court. Furthermore, the court also has an appellate jurisdiction that can be used for cases coming from the General District Courts that claim more than $50.