The purpose of this agency is to provide "legal representation to those who face an economic barrier to adequate legal counsel." Furthermore, the Legislature found, in 1981, that the state is required to provide "high quality legal assistance to indigent persons" and that doing so "reaffirms the faith of our citizens in our government of laws." Local Public Defender offices and Court appointed private attorneys provide representation in trial courts, and often are asked to prosecute appeals. The "Appellate Advocacy Division is authorized by the statute to insure that indigent persons have proper representation in the Supreme Court of Appeals.
The National Legal Aid & Defender Association has established Guidelines for Legal Defense Systems in the United States. These guidelines stress the importance of separating the trial and appellate functions:
The appellate and post-conviction functions should be independent of the trial function in order to accomplish free and unrestricted review of trial court proceedings. Where the appellate office is part of a defender system which includes both trials and appeals, the appellate function should be as organizationally independent of the trial function as is feasible.
We, and NLADA, believe that we should contact and fully discuss the appeal with trial counsel. Furthermore, the Supreme Court of Appeals finds participation by trial counsel to be useful, particularly upon oral presentation of an appeal petition.
We try to establish a personal relationship with the client through personal interviews and continued contact. Discussion of the case with the client has proven to be beneficial.
A copy of all pleadings affecting the merits of the case filed for a client by the defender is automatically forwarded to the client. Because the client is not present at most appellate proceedings, the client is always informed of the occurrence of all substantial hearings, rulings and decisions affecting the case.
Click here to see biographical sketches of the Appellate staff.
West Virginia Supreme Court
West Virginia Legislature
For questions or comments concerning the Appellate Advocacy Division click here.