West Virginia, the Mountain State

By Charles H. Ambler; Festus P. Summers | Go to book overview

Chapter XXVII
Patching the. Constitution 1880-1955

THE MOST OBJECTIONABLE FEATURE of West Virginia's first constitution was the provision vesting local government in township mass meetings after the manner of New England. However compatible with Jeffersonian principles of democracy, the township system was ill-suited to large and sparsely settled counties. The township system was moreover "too Yankee" for some West Virginians. Over large areas it had not therefore been put into operation, even for the establishment of public free schools. To remedy this situation the constitution of 1872, the present one as amended, restored the county-magisterial form of government and vested responsibility for implementing it in county courts patterned after those used in Virginia to 1869.1

In its restored form the county court was composed of a president, elected by the voters of the county for a term of four years, and one and not more than two justices of the peace from each magisterial district. The court was required to hold six sessions annually: two for the consideration of police and fiscal matters and the others for the trial of cases, both criminal and civil, and the transaction of general business. When the court sat as a tax-levying body, the presence of a majority of all the justices of the county was required for a quorum. The court had original jurisdiction in all civil cases where the sum in controversy exceeded twenty dollars; in all cases of habeas corpus, quo warranto, mandamus, certiorari, and prohibition; in all suits in equity; and in all criminal cases below the

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1
John W. Mason, "The Origin and Development of the Judicial System of West Virginia," in Callahan, Semi-Centennial History of West Virginia, pp. 491-500; Burton A. Hall, "Amendments to the Constitution of West Virginia, 1872-1910" (M.A. thesis, West Va. Univ., 1938).

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