State ex rel. Collins v. Bedell

Decision Date12 July 1995
Docket NumberNos. 22781,22783,s. 22781
Citation194 W.Va. 390,460 S.E.2d 636
CourtWest Virginia Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of West Virginia ex rel. Clayton COLLINS, Petitioner, v. Honorable Thomas A. BEDELL, Judge of the Circuit Court of Harrison County, Respondent. STATE of West Virginia ex rel. John Leslie PEEPLES, Petitioner, v. Honorable David W. KNIGHT, Judge of the Circuit Court of Mercer County, Respondent.
Dissenting Opinion of Retired Justice Neely July 12, 1995.
Syllabus by the Court

1. " ' "In considering the constitutionality of a legislative enactment, courts must exercise due restraint, in recognition of the principle of the separation of powers in government among the judicial, legislative and executive branches. Every reasonable construction must be resorted to by the courts in order to sustain constitutionality, and any reasonable doubt must be resolved in favor of the constitutionality of the legislative enactment in question. Courts are not concerned with questions relating to legislative policy. The general powers of the legislature, within constitutional limits, are almost plenary. In considering the constitutionality of an act of the legislature, the negation of legislative power must appear beyond reasonable doubt." Point 1 Syllabus, State ex rel. Appalachian Power Company v. Gainer, 149 W.Va. 740 [, 143 S.E.2d 351 (1965) ].' Syl. pt. 3, State ex rel. W.Va. Housing Development Fund v. Copenhaver, 153 W.Va. 636, 171 S.E.2d 545 (1969)." Syl. pt. 3, State ex rel. Lambert v. County Comm'n, 192 W.Va. 448, 452 S.E.2d 906 (1994).

2. W.Va.Code, 50-5-13 [1994], which sets forth the appeal procedure in a criminal proceeding from magistrate court to circuit court, but which does not give the defendant a statutory right to a jury trial de novo on the appeal to circuit court, does not violate W.Va. Const. art. III, § 14 or art. VIII, § 10.

3. A defendant's due process rights set forth in the W.Va. Const. art. III, § 10 and the U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1 are not violated when a non-lawyer magistrate presides over the trial because W.Va.Code, 50-5-13 [1994] provides meaningful review on appeal.

4. " 'General and indefinite terms of one provision of a constitution, literally embracing numerous subjects, are impliedly limited and restrained by definite and specific terms of another, necessarily and inexorably withdrawing from the operation of such general terms, a subject which, but for such implied withdrawal, would be embraced and governed by them.' Syllabus Point 5, Lawson v. Kanawha County Court, 80 W.Va. 612, 92 S.E. 786 (1917)." Syl. pt. 1, State ex rel. Boards of Educ. v. Chafin, 180 W.Va. 219, 376 S.E.2d 113 (1988).

5. " 'A constitutional amendment, as the last word from the people on a subject under consideration, should be given controlling effect where there is irreconcilable conflict between it and other constitutional provisions, but no such effect should be given where it and other provisions of the Constitution may be read together and harmonized without destroying the effect and purpose of any of them.' Syllabus Point 3, Berry v. Fox, 114 W.Va. 513, 172 S.E. 896 (1934)." Syl. pt. 2, State ex rel. Boards of Educ. v. Chafin, 180 W.Va. 219, 376 S.E.2d 113 (1988).

6. "Under ex post facto principles of the United States and West Virginia Constitutions, a law passed after the commission of an offense which increases the punishment, lengthens the sentence or operates to the detriment of the accused, cannot be applied to him." Syl. pt. 1, Adkins v. Bordenkircher, 164 W.Va. 292, 262 S.E.2d 885 (1980).

7. A procedural change in a criminal proceeding does not violate the ex post facto principle found in the W.Va. Const. art. III, § 4 and in the U.S. Const. art. I, § 10 unless the procedural change alters the definition of a crime so that what is currently punished as a crime was an innocent act when committed; deprives the accused of a defense which existed when the crime was committed; or increases the punishment for the crime after it was committed.

8. "In determining whether to grant a rule to show cause in prohibition when a court is not acting in excess of its jurisdiction, this Court will look to the adequacy of other available remedies such as appeal and to the over-all economy of effort and money among litigants, lawyers and courts; however, this Court will use prohibition in this discretionary way to correct only substantial, clear-cut, legal errors plainly in contravention of a clear statutory, constitutional, or common law mandate which may be resolved independently of any disputed facts and only in cases where there is a high probability that the trial will be completely reversed if the error is not corrected in advance." Syl. pt. 1, Hinkle v. Black, 164 W.Va. 112, 262 S.E.2d 744 (1979).

James M. Pool, Clarksburg, for petitioner Clayton Collins.

R. Thomas Czarnik, Princeton, for petitioner John Leslie Peeples.

Darrell V. McGraw, Jr., Atty. Gen., Silas B. Taylor, Sr. Deputy Atty. Gen., Charleston, for respondents.

McHUGH, Chief Justice:

This opinion involves two separate petitions for writs of prohibition. One of the petitions was filed by Clayton Collins against the respondent, the Honorable Thomas A. Bedell, Judge of the Circuit Court of Harrison County. The other petition was filed by Leslie Peeples against the Honorable David Knight, Judge of the Circuit Court of Mercer County. The petitions will be consolidated for decision because both seek to prohibit a trial judge from denying a jury trial de novo in the circuit court on appeal from a criminal conviction in a magistrate court. For the reasons set forth below, petitioner Collins' writ of prohibition is granted as moulded; however, we deny petitioner Peeples' writ of prohibition.

I.

In June of 1994 significant statutory changes were made regarding the appeal of a criminal conviction in magistrate court to the circuit court. Although petitioner Collins' magistrate court trial had not been held, he had been arrested and had already waived his right to a jury trial in the magistrate court when the statutory changes occurred in June of 1994. Petitioner Peeples, however, was arrested in August of 1994, which was after the statutory changes had been made.

A. Statutory Changes

Prior to June 10, 1994, a person convicted of a criminal offense in magistrate court had a statutory right to appeal his or her conviction to the circuit court and receive a trial de novo which included the right to a trial by jury. See W.Va.Code, 50-5-13 [1993]. At that time, there was no statutory provision which provided for the recordation of trials in magistrate court.

In 1994 a provision was added to W.Va.Code, 50-5-8 which required that jury trials in magistrate court be recorded electronically. See W.Va.Code, 50-5-8(e) [1994]. Additionally, W.Va.Code, 50-5-13 was amended to eliminate the statutory right to a jury trial de novo in circuit court on an appeal from the magistrate court in a criminal court proceeding.

The amendment to W.Va.Code, 50-5-13 was effective on June 10, 1994, and specifically provides that when there has been a jury trial in a criminal proceeding in magistrate court, the review on appeal to the circuit court is limited to the record of the magistrate court trial. See W.Va.Code, 50-5-13(b) [1994]. If a person waives the right to a jury trial in a criminal proceeding in magistrate court, then the review on appeal to the circuit court is limited to a "trial de novo triable to the court, without a jury." W.Va.Code, 50-5-13(b) [1994]. There is a provision which authorizes the circuit court to impanel a jury on appeal if the circuit court finds that the defendant was "effectively denied a jury trial" in the magistrate criminal court proceeding. W.Va.Code, 50-5-13(c)(5) [1994], in relevant part. However, the amended statutory scheme, unlike the former statutory scheme, does not provide a right to a jury trial de novo on appeal from a criminal conviction in a magistrate court.

Under the amendments the circuit court has the authority to reverse, affirm, remand, or modify the magistrate judgment order pursuant to W.Va.Code, 50-5-13(c) [1994]. Further, the circuit court is required to consider whether the judgment of the magistrate is arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion; contrary to constitutional rights; in excess of statutory jurisdiction; without observance of procedure required by law; unsupported by substantial evidence; or unwarranted by the facts. W.Va.Code, 50-5-13(c)(3) [1994], in relevant part. Thus, the circuit court takes on the role of a reviewing court, not unlike this Court, rather than a trial court when a criminal conviction from magistrate court is appealed to it under the 1994 amendments.

B. Petitioner Clayton Collins

Petitioner Collins was arrested in December of 1993 and charged with four counts of third degree sexual abuse pursuant to W.Va.Code, 61-8B-9 [1984]. On the day of his arrest, petitioner Collins waived his right to a jury trial in the magistrate court. After numerous continuances were made by both parties and after the statutory amendments were effective, a non-jury trial was held in October of 1994, and petitioner Collins was convicted of all four counts of third degree sexual abuse. The petitioner was sentenced to ninety days in jail for each of the four counts. Two counts were to run concurrently with each other, but consecutively to the other two counts.

In October of 1994, petitioner Collins gave his notice of intent to appeal the judgment of conviction in magistrate court to the Circuit Court of Harrison County for a trial de novo and filed a "jury claim" seeking a trial by jury in the circuit court. The circuit court entered an order denying petitioner Collins' request for a trial by jury. Therefore, petitioner Collins is seeking a writ of prohibition from this Court in order to prohibit the circuit court from trying the case without...

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