Virginia Judiciary 1Virginia Judiciary

The Judiciary of Virginia is defined under the Constitution and law of Virginia and is composed of :

  • the Supreme Court of Virginia
  • the Court of Appeals
  • the Circuit Courts,
  • the General District Courts.

Its administration is headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Judicial Council, the Committee on District Courts, the Judicial Conferences, the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission, and various other offices and officers. There are four agencies within the Judicial Branch:

  • Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission (JIRC)
  • Virginia Board of Bar Examiners (VBBE)
  • Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission (VCSC)
  • Virginia State Bar (VSB)

Summary

The Judiciary of Virginia is defined under the Constitution and law of Virginia and is composed of :

  • the Supreme Court of Virginia
  • the Court of Appeals
  • the Circuit Courts,
  • the General District Courts.

Its administration is headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Judicial Council, the Committee on District Courts, the Judicial Conferences, the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission, and various other offices and officers. There are four agencies within the Judicial Branch:

  • Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission (JIRC)
  • Virginia Board of Bar Examiners (VBBE)
  • Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission (VCSC)
  • Virginia State Bar (VSB)

About

Source: Wikipedia

The administration of the courts is headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Uniform Rules and Practices are promulgated by the Supreme Court and govern the practice and procedures to be used in the courts.

By statute, the Chief Justice is chosen by a majority vote of the seven justices of the Supreme Court. The Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals is elected by a vote of the eleven Court of Appeals judges for a term of four years. The state has 120 Circuit Courts divided among 31 judicial circuits. The clerk of the Circuit Court is a constitutional officer and chief administrator of the Circuit Court. There are 32 General District Court districts, each having at least one judge, and each having a clerk of the court and a courthouse. Each district has a chief general district court judge and a chief juvenile and domestic relations district court judge elected by peer vote for a two-year term.

The decisions of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and circuit courts are published in the Virginia Reports, Virginia Court of Appeals Reports, and Virginia Circuit Court Opinions, respectively.[1] Most circuit court decisions are not published. The decisions of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals are also published in the unofficial South Eastern Reporter.

The Committee on District Courts (CDC) recommends new judgeships, certifies the need to fill district court vacancies, authorizes the number of clerks, magistrates and personnel in each district, establishes guidelines and policies for court system personnel, and fixes salary classification schedules for district court personnel and magistrates. It is composed of the Majority Leader of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, the Chairmen of the Committees for Courts of Justice in the Senate and House of Delegates, two members of each of the Courts of Justice Committees appointed by the respective Chairman, one circuit court judge, two general district court judges, and two juvenile and domestic relations district court judges.

The Judicial Conference of Virginia and the Judicial Conference of Virginia for District Courts discuss and consider means and methods of improving the administration of justice in Virginia. The Judicial Council of Virginia is charged with the responsibility of making a continuous study of the organization, rules, and methods of procedure and practice of the judiciary. The council is composed of the Chief Justice as president, one Court of Appeals judge, six circuit court judges, one general district court judge, one juvenile and domestic relations district court judge, two attorneys qualified to practice in the Supreme Court of Virginia, and the Chairmen of the Committees for Courts of Justice in the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates.

The Office of the Executive Secretary (OES) of the Supreme Court provides administrative support for the courts and magistrate offices.

Officers

Judges
The seven justices of the Supreme Court are elected by a majority vote of both houses of the General Assembly for a term of twelve years. To be eligible for election, a candidate must be a resident of Virginia and must have been a member of the Virginia Bar for at least five years. Vacancies on the court occurring between sessions of the General Assembly may be filled by the Governor for a term expiring thirty days after the commencement of the next session of the General Assembly.

The eleven Court of Appeals judges are elected by a majority vote of each house of the General Assembly for eight-year terms with interim appointments made by the Governor.

The judges of the Circuit Courts are elected by a majority vote of each house of the General Assembly for eight-year terms with interim appointments made by the Governor.

The judges of the District Courts are elected by a majority vote of each house of the General Assembly for terms of six years, and interim vacancy appointments when the General Assembly is not in session are made by the Circuit Court of the corresponding circuit.

Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission
The Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission investigates allegations of judicial misconduct or the serious mental or physical disability of a judge. The commission has jurisdiction to investigate the justices of the Supreme Court and all judges of the Commonwealth, as well as members of the State Corporation Commission, the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission, special justices, substitute judges, and retired judges who have been recalled to service. The Commission may file a formal complaint with the Supreme Court against judges for violations of any canon of judicial ethics, misconduct in office, or failure to perform their judicial duties. The commission has seven members, elected by the General Assembly for four-year terms. Membership includes one circuit court judge, one general district court judge, one juvenile and domestic relations district court judge, two lawyers, and two members of the public who are not lawyers. Commission staff receive and investigate allegations of misconduct and present the findings to the commission.

Magistrates
Magistrates are judicial officers, appointed by the executive secretary of the Supreme Court. Magistrates have the authority to issue adult arrest process, search warrants, emergency protective orders, emergency medical and mental health orders, and certain civil processes. Magistrates also have authority to determine bail for recently arrested individuals.

Special Justices
Special justices are judicial officers with authority to issue civil mental health commitment orders, in Virginia district courts.

Private attorneys
The common law of Virginia permits private attorneys to participate with the government in the prosecution of criminal cases.

Clerks
The clerk of the circuit court is an elected, constitutional officer and chief administrator of the circuit court. The clerks of other courts are appointed by the office of the executive secretary.

Diagram of Virginia’s Judicial System

Download (PDF, 16KB)

Contact

Locations

Office of the Executive Secretary
100 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

Web

Main Website, Links to Courts

Supreme Court

Source: Website

The Supreme Court of Virginia is the highest court in the Commonwealth of Virginia and is made up of seven justices. It primarily hears appeals from the trial-level city and county Circuit Courts.

Although the Supreme Court of Virginia possesses both original and appellate jurisdiction, its primary function is to review decisions of lower courts, including the Court of Appeals, from which appeals have been allowed. Virginia does not allow an appeal to the Supreme Court as a matter of right except in cases involving the State Corporation Commission, attorney disciplinary actions including the disbarment of an attorney, and review of the death penalty.

The court’s original jurisdiction is limited to cases of habeas corpus (ordering one holding custody to produce the detained person before the court for the purpose of determining whether such custody is proper), mandamus (ordering the holder of an office to perform his duty), prohibition (ordering an action stopped in a lower court), and writs of actual innocence pursuant to Virginia’s Code § 19.2–327.2. It also has original jurisdiction for challenges to decisions of the State Corporation Commission pursuant to Article IX of the Constitution of Virginia[1]. The Supreme Court also has original jurisdiction in matters filed by the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission relating to judicial censure, retirement, and removal of judges.

Court of Appeals

Source: Website

The Court of Appeals of Virginia provides appellate review of final decisions of the circuit courts in domestic relations matters, appeals from decisions of an administrative agency, traffic infractions and criminal cases, except where a sentence of death has been imposed. It also hears appeals of final decisions of the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission. While appeals of criminal and traffic cases, final decisions on applications for concealed weapons permits, and certain preliminary rulings in felony cases are presented by a petition for appeal, all other appeals to the Court of Appeals are a matter of right. The Court of Appeals has original jurisdiction to issue writs of mandamus, prohibition, and habeas corpus in any case over which the court would have appellate jurisdiction, and writs of actual innocence (based on non-biological evidence).

The decisions of the Court of Appeals are final in traffic infraction and misdemeanor cases where no incarceration is imposed, in domestic relations matters, and in cases originating before administrative agencies or the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission.  However, the Supreme Court may review those decisions as well if it finds that the decision of the Court of Appeals involves a substantial constitutional question as a determinative issue or matters of significant precedential value. Except in those cases where the decision of the Court of Appeals is final, any party aggrieved by a decision of the Court of Appeals may petition the Supreme Court for an appeal.

Circuit Courts

Source: Webpages

The Virginia Circuit Courts are the state trial courts of general jurisdiction. The state has 120 Circuit Courts divided among 31 judicial circuits.

The Circuit Courts have jurisdiction to hear civil and criminal cases. For civil cases, the courts have authority to try cases with an amount in controversy of more than $4,500 and have exclusive original jurisdiction over claims for more than $25,000. In criminal matters, the Circuit Courts are the trial courts for all felony charges and for misdemeanors originally charged there. The Circuit Courts also have appellate jurisdiction for any case from the Virginia General District Courts (the trial courts of limited jurisdiction in Virginia) claiming more than $50, which are tried de novo in the Circuit Courts.

General District Courts

Source: Webpages

The Virginia General District Court (GDC) is the lowest level of the Virginia court system, and is the court that most Virginians have contact with. There are 32 General District Court districts, each having at least one judge.

There is a general district court in each city and county in Virginia. The general district court handles traffic violations, hears minor criminal cases known as misdemeanors, and conducts preliminary hearings for more serious criminal cases called felonies.

General district courts have exclusive authority to hear civil cases with claims of $4,500 or less and share authority with the circuit courts to hear cases with claims between $4,500 and $25,000. Examples of civil cases are landlord and tenant disputes, contract disputes and personal injury actions.

Office of the Executive Secretary

The Office of the Executive Secretary provides administrative support for all of the courts and magistrate offices within the Commonwealth.  This includes the training and education of all judicial branch employees, as well as legal research assistance for judges.  This office also provides payroll, purchasing, accounts payable, human resources, planning, and grant services to the courts.  It supplies all information technology, including Internet, e-mail, case management, and video technology, along with technical support to the courts and magistrate offices in the Commonwealth.

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Supreme Court of VirginiaSupreme Court of Virginia

Although the Supreme Court of Virginia possesses both original and appellate jurisdiction, its primary function is to review decisions of lower courts. Virginia does not allow an appeal to the Supreme Court as a matter of right except in cases involving the State Corporation Commission, the disbarment of an attorney, and review of the death penalty.

The Court’s original jurisdiction is limited to cases of habeas corpus (ordering one holding custody to produce the detained person before the Court for the purpose of determining whether such custody is proper), mandamus (ordering the holder of an office to perform his duty), prohibition (ordering a public official to stop an action), and actual innocence (based on biological testing) . The Supreme Court also has original jurisdiction in matters filed by the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission relating to judicial censure and retirement, and removal of judges.

Summary

Although the Supreme Court of Virginia possesses both original and appellate jurisdiction, its primary function is to review decisions of lower courts. Virginia does not allow an appeal to the Supreme Court as a matter of right except in cases involving the State Corporation Commission, the disbarment of an attorney, and review of the death penalty.

The Court’s original jurisdiction is limited to cases of habeas corpus (ordering one holding custody to produce the detained person before the Court for the purpose of determining whether such custody is proper), mandamus (ordering the holder of an office to perform his duty), prohibition (ordering a public official to stop an action), and actual innocence (based on biological testing) . The Supreme Court also has original jurisdiction in matters filed by the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission relating to judicial censure and retirement, and removal of judges.

About

Contact

Locations

Clerks
100 North Ninth Street, 5th Floor
Richmond, VA 23219-1315
Phone: (804) 786-2251

Web

Webpages

Welcome to the Supreme Court of Virginia

Download (PDF, 366KB)

Useful links

Calendar
Shows dates the Court will be in session and conducting Writ Panels

Case Status and Information

Office of Chief Staff Attorney

Forms

Information Regarding Petitions for Appeal Docketed for a Writ Panel Hearing

Information Regarding Pending Appeals that Have Been Granted

Opinions

  • By Date Issued (since 6/9/95)
    Effective immediately, the Supreme Court of Virginia will no longer hold opinions for release during a session of Court following oral argument. Instead, opinions will be released when deemed ready by the Justices and will typically be issued and posted on the Court’s website on a Thursday.
  • Opinions Search
    Search opinions from the Supreme Court of Virginia (6/9/95 – present) and the Court of Appeals of Virginia (published opinions from 5/2/95 – present, and unpublished opinions from 3/5/02 – present)

Unpublished Orders
Unpublished orders for cases that were argued before the full court are posted to this page. Click on a case name to bring up further information about that appeal. 

Petitions for Rehearing

Must be filed electronically unless being filed pro se by a prisoner or with leave of Court in accordance with the Rules of the Supreme Court applicable to such rehearings.

Resources and Reference Materials

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Judicial AgenciesJudicial Agencies

There are four agencies within the Judicial Branch:

  • Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission (JIRC)
  • Virginia Board of Bar Examiners (VBBE)
  • Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission (VCSC)
  • Virginia State Bar (VSB)

The JIRC investigates complaints of judicial misconduct or serious mental or physical disability of a justice or judge.
The VBBE ascertains the qualifications of applicants for admission to the Bar of Virginia and licenses those applicants.
The VSB regulates the legal profession of Virginia, advances the availability and quality of legal services provided to the people of Virginia, and assists in improving the legal profession and the judicial system. is charged with developing, maintaining and modifying a system of discretionary sentencing guidelines to assist the judiciary in the imposition of sentences.

Summary

There are four agencies within the Judicial Branch:

  • Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission (JIRC)
  • Virginia Board of Bar Examiners (VBBE)
  • Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission (VCSC)
  • Virginia State Bar (VSB)

The JIRC investigates complaints of judicial misconduct or serious mental or physical disability of a justice or judge.
The VBBE ascertains the qualifications of applicants for admission to the Bar of Virginia and licenses those applicants.
The VSB regulates the legal profession of Virginia, advances the availability and quality of legal services provided to the people of Virginia, and assists in improving the legal profession and the judicial system. is charged with developing, maintaining and modifying a system of discretionary sentencing guidelines to assist the judiciary in the imposition of sentences.

About

Web

Main webpage

Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission

Source: Website

The JIRC investigates complaints of judicial misconduct or serious mental or physical disability of a justice or judge.

The website provides general information about the Commission, how to file a complaint, and how complaints are investigated.

Contact Information

  • Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission
    P.O. Box 367 Richmond, Virginia 23218-0367
    Phone – (804) 786-6636
    FAX – (804) 371-0650

Canons of Judicial Conduct for the State of Virginia
These Canons, which govern the conduct and actions of all justices and judges of the Commonwealth, retired judges and members eligible for recall to judicial service, substitute judges and special justices, judges pro tempore while acting as a judge pro tempore, and all members of the State Corporation Commission and Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission, can be found in Part 6, Section III of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia.

Complaint Form
For use to file a complaint against a judge or justice

Rules of the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission
Rules governing proceedings before the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission

 

Virginia Board of Bar Examiners

Source: Website

The Virginia Board of Bar Examiners (“Board”) is an agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia. In addition, its statutory authority is found in § 54.1-3919 et seq. of the Code of Virginia. The Board is responsible for ascertaining the qualifications of applicants for admission to the Bar of Virginia and licensing those applicants who meet those requirements as established by the Supreme Court of Virginia, the Virginia General Assembly, and the Rules and Regulations issued by the Board.

Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission

Source: Website

The VCSC is charged with developing, maintaining and modifying a system of discretionary sentencing guidelines to assist the judiciary in the imposition of sentences.

Contact information:

VCSC
100 N. Ninth Street Richmond, VA 23219

VCSC HOTLINE
(804)225-4398
Fax (804)786-3934

EMAIL
carolyn.williamson@vcsc.virginia.gov

TEXT US
(804)393-9588

Virginia State Bar

Source: Website

The VSB regulates the legal profession of Virginia, advances the availability and quality of legal services provided to the people of Virginia, and assists in improving the legal profession and the judicial system.

The Virginia State Bar (VSB) was created in 1938 by the Virginia General Assembly as an administrative agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia, unifying Virginia lawyers into a mandatory state bar.

The VSB is governed by its Council and Executive Committee, whose members are elected or appointed from every judicial circuit in the commonwealth. Appointed volunteer lawyers and nonlawyers make up the many VSB boards and committees.

The mission of the Virginia State Bar is (1) to protect the public, (2) to regulate the legal profession of Virginia, (3) to advance access to legal services, and (4) to assist in improving the legal profession and the judicial system.

All VSB activities relate to one or more of these four elements. The VSB is supported entirely by annual lawyer license fees, self-generated income, and volunteer service. It receives no tax dollars.

Primarily, the VSB:

The VSB is separate from:

VSB membership statistics, updated monthly, show how many lawyers practice law in Virginia at any given time. The organizational chart shows the structure of its departments.

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Office of Attorney GeneralOffice of Attorney General

The Office of the Attorney General is the Commonwealth’s law firm. In addition to representing the interests of the people of Virginia, our clients are Virginia state government and the state agencies, boards and commissions that compose it.

The Office of the Attorney General includes a chief deputy attorney general, four deputy attorneys general who oversee 21 specialized sections of the law, and other employees including assistant attorneys general, additional lawyers appointed as counsel to particular agencies or universities, legal assistants, legal secretaries and other professional support staff.

One thing the Attorney General and the other attorneys on our staff cannot do is give legal advice to private citizens. If you have a private dispute, this Office cannot intervene. To find more information regarding finding an attorney for a private legal matter, please click here.

Summary

The Office of the Attorney General is the Commonwealth’s law firm. In addition to representing the interests of the people of Virginia, our clients are Virginia state government and the state agencies, boards and commissions that compose it.

The Office of the Attorney General includes a chief deputy attorney general, four deputy attorneys general who oversee 21 specialized sections of the law, and other employees including assistant attorneys general, additional lawyers appointed as counsel to particular agencies or universities, legal assistants, legal secretaries and other professional support staff.

One thing the Attorney General and the other attorneys on our staff cannot do is give legal advice to private citizens. If you have a private dispute, this Office cannot intervene. To find more information regarding finding an attorney for a private legal matter, please click here.

About

Source: Website

The Attorney General has the duty and power to:

  • Conduct or assist criminal investigations and prosecutions in areas like child exploitation or child pornography, computer crimes, gang activities and other organized criminal enterprises, identity theft, violations of environmental law, theft of state property, and fraud against taxpayers.
  • Ensure justice by defending criminal convictions on appeal, defending the state when prisoners sue concerning their incarceration, and assisting victims of crime who are following criminal cases at the appellate level.
  • Enforce state consumer protections laws through investigation, referral, and prosecution of complaints.
  • Provide legal advice and representation to the Governor and executive agencies, state boards and commissions, and institutions of higher education. The advice commonly includes help with personnel issues, contracts, purchasing, regulatory and real estate matters and the review of proposed legislation. The Office also represents those agencies in court.
  • Provide written legal advice in the form of official opinions to members of the General Assembly and government officials.
  • Support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Virginia.
  • Enforce antitrust laws that protect businesses and consumers from behavior that defeats healthy competition.
  • Represent the interests of Virginia consumers in utility matters before the State Corporation Commission.
  • Collect debts owed to state agencies, hospitals and universities.
  • Supervise the appointment and payment of private attorneys hired by other state agencies for various matters.
  • Provide information to the public on Identity Theft prevention and remediation.
  • Administer grants to help reduce crimes involving gangs, drugs and sex predators.
  • Administer the Sexually Violent Predator Civil Commitment Program to protect children from the most dangerous predators.
  • Represent the Department of Social Services in its efforts to collect child support on behalf of children and families.

Web

Website

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