VIRGINIA APPELLATE COURT STRUCTURE

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					               VIRGINIA APPELLATE COURT STRUCTURE

First Level – Court of Appeals of Virginia
11 judges, plus (currently) 5 senior judges.
3 judges on oral argument panels.
Jurisdiction is discretionary for appeals involving (1) criminal and traffic cases,
(2) concealed weapons permits, and (3) involuntary treatment of prisoners;
mandatory for all others.
There is no particular standard for discretionary cases – this is a court of error
correction.
Jurisdiction is limited to (1) administrative agency determinations; (2) Workers’
Compensation cases; (3) domestic relations cases; plus the areas listed above as
discretionary. All other appeals go directly to the Supreme Court of Virginia.
Oral argument is allowed of right.
One court provides statewide coverage. The court sits in four cities across the
state – Richmond, Chesapeake, Salem, and Alexandria.
Perhaps one opinion in five is published. There is no prohibition against citing
unpublished opinions, but they have no precedential value, so there generally is
no reason to do so.
The court is bound by precedent of the Supreme Court of Virginia and the
Supreme Court of the United States.
In discretionary cases, a petition for appeal is first referred to a single judge, who
may issue a writ based on the briefs and the record. If that judge denies the writ,
a per curiam opinion is issued, and the petitioner may then demand oral
argument before a three-judge panel; any one judge may grant a writ. A
statewide commission will conduct several meetings over an 18-month period
beginning in 2005, with an eye toward a comprehensive revision of the court’s
rules.
Clerk: Cynthia L. McCoy (757) 371-8428
Chief Deputy Clerk: John Vollino (757) 371-8428

Second level – Supreme Court of Virginia
Seven justices, plus (currently) four senior justices.
Three or four justices sit on writ panels; any one justice may grant a writ. Once a
writ is granted, the entire court considers the merits of the case.
Jurisdiction includes civil and criminal cases.
Jurisdiction is discretionary in all but a few cases; appellants must usually file a
petition for appeal and be awarded a writ before the court will consider the merits
of the case. The court generally grants between 125 and 140 writs per year.
Mandatory jurisdiction is limited to death sentences; attorney disciplinary
rulings; State Corporation Commission cases; and
mandamus/prohibition/habeas corpus petitions originally brought in the
Supreme Court.
There is no particular standard for discretionary cases – this is a court of error
correction.
Petitions for appeal that are denied are unpublished. Once a writ is granted,
about 70-80% of those cases result in published opinions. The remainder are
disposed of by orders, almost all of which are unpublished. There is no
prohibition against citing these unpublished orders, which may be regarded as
persuasive.
One court provides statewide coverage. The court sits in Richmond. Once per
year, in the summer, the court hears writ arguments in a location outside
Richmond.
The court is bound by precedent from the Supreme Court of the United States.
Precedents are binding on the Court of Appeals of Virginia, plus Virginia district
and circuit (trial) courts.
There are special provisions for expedited review of trial court decisions granting
or refusing injunctions. A statewide commission will conduct several meetings
over an 18-month period beginning in 2005, with an eye toward a comprehensive
revision of the court’s rules.
Clerk: Patricia L. Harrington (757) 786-2251
Chief Deputy Clerk: Douglas Robelen (757) 786-2251
Chief Staff Attorney: Gregory E. Lucyk (757) 786-2259


Submitted by:

L. Steven Emmert, Esq.
Chairman, Appellate Practice Subcommittee, Virginia State Bar
Sykes, Bourdon, Ahern & Levy, PC
Pembroke One, Fifth Floor
281 Independence Boulevard
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23462
(757) 965-5021
emmert@virginia-appeals.com