State ex rel. Frazier v. Meadows, No. 22333

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtCLECKLEY; In this original proceeding in mandamus, the relator, the Honorable John R. Frazier; BROTHERTON; MILLER
Citation193 W.Va. 20,454 S.E.2d 65
PartiesSTATE of West Virginia ex rel. the Honorable John R. FRAZIER, Judge of the Circuit Court of Mercer County, Relator, v. Don B. MEADOWS, Sheriff of Mercer County, and the County Commission of Mercer County, Respondents.
Decision Date08 December 1994
Docket NumberNo. 22333

Page 65

454 S.E.2d 65
193 W.Va. 20
STATE of West Virginia ex rel. the Honorable John R.
FRAZIER, Judge of the Circuit Court of Mercer
County, Relator,
v.
Don B. MEADOWS, Sheriff of Mercer County, and the County
Commission of Mercer County, Respondents.
No. 22333.
Supreme Court of Appeals of
West Virginia.
Submitted Sept. 13, 1994.
Decided Dec. 8, 1994.

Page 66

[193 W.Va. 21] Syllabus by the Court

1. "The system of 'checks and balances' provided for in American state and federal constitutions and secured to each branch of government by 'Separation of Powers' clauses theoretically and practically compels courts, when called upon, to thwart any unlawful actions of one branch of government which impair the constitutional responsibilities

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[193 W.Va. 22] and functions of a coequal branch." State ex rel. Brotherton v. Blankenship, 158 W.Va. 390, 402, 214 S.E.2d 467, 477 (1975).

2. "Acts of the Legislature are presumed to be constitutional, and courts will interpret legislation in any reasonable way which will sustain its constitutionality. State ex rel. City of Charleston v. Coghill, 156 W.Va. 877, 207 S.E.2d 113 (1973); State ex rel. Appalachian Power Co. v. Gainer, 149 W.Va. 740, 143 S.E.2d 351 (1965). Thus where a statute is susceptible of more than one construction, one which renders the statute constitutional, and the other which renders it unconstitutional, the statute will be given the construction which sustains constitutionality. State ex rel. Slatton v. Boles, 147 W.Va. 674, 130 S.E.2d 192 (1963), Board of Education v. Board of Public Works, 144 W.Va. 593, 109 S.E.2d 552 (1959)." State ex rel. Frieson v. Isner, 168 W.Va. 758, 778-79, 285 S.E.2d 641, 655 (1981).

3. The Judicial Reorganization Amendment provides a hierarchy to be used in resolving administrative conflicts and problems. Under the Amendment, the Judiciary, not the executive branch, is vested with the authority to resolve any substantial, genuine, and irreconcilable administrative conflicts regarding court personnel.

4. A sheriff's right to initially select a court's bailiff may not obstruct a court's inherent power to control the administration of justice and conduct orderly judicial proceedings.

5. "A writ of mandamus will not issue unless three elements coexist--(1) a clear right in the petitioner to the relief sought; (2) a legal duty on the part of respondent to do the thing which the petitioner seeks to compel; and (3) the absence of another adequate remedy." Syllabus Point 2, State ex rel. Kucera v. City of Wheeling, 153 W.Va. 538, 170 S.E.2d 367 (1969).

Norwood Bentley III, Bowles, Rice, McDavid, Graff & Love, Charleston, William Flanigan, Sanders, Austin, Swope & Flanigan, Princeton, for relator.

David Burton, Burton & Kilgore, Princeton, Michael Gibson, Gibson & McFadden, Princeton, for respondent Don B. Meadows, Sheriff of Mercer County.

John Hedges, Byrne & Hedges, Morgantown, amicus curiae for West Virginia Judicial Ass'n.

CLECKLEY, Justice:

In this original proceeding in mandamus, the relator, the Honorable John R. Frazier, Judge of the Circuit Court of Mercer County, petitions this Court to issue a writ of mandamus requiring the respondents, Don D. Meadows, Sheriff of Mercer County, and the Mercer County Commission, to provide the relator with a qualified bailiff of the relator's choice who would work under his control and direct supervision.

Judge Frazier maintains that a bailiff is an officer of the court and, therefore, should be under the control and supervision of the presiding judicial officer. He contends that the Supreme Court of Appeals has the inherent power to administer the judicial court system pursuant to the 1974 Judicial Reorganization Amendment (Reorganization Amendment) and that this amendment is superior to any other statutory language. On the other hand, the respondents assert that, notwithstanding the Reorganization Amendment, W.Va.Code, 51-3-5 (1923), commands the sheriff of a county to provide bailiffs for the circuit courts and is the controlling law.

We agree generally with the respondents that the Reorganization Amendment does not supersede W.Va.Code, 51-3-5. Nevertheless, to honor and fulfill the purposes of both the Reorganization Amendment and the statute, we hold that the circuit judge directs and controls bailiffs assigned to him and that where a substantial, genuine, and irreconcilable conflict exists between the sheriff and circuit court judge concerning the selection of a bailiff that impairs, or is likely to impair, the court's ability to function properly, the ultimate authority to make a reasonable selection of a qualified bailiff is constitutionally vested in the court. Because we find such a conflict exists in this case, the writ is granted as moulded.

Page 68

[193 W.Va. 23] I.

On March 10, 1994, the relator informed Sheriff Meadows and John Rapp, President of the Mercer County Commission, that he intended to hire a full-time replacement for his retiring bailiff. 1 Sheriff Meadows replied by letter and raised certain concerns. Sheriff Meadows specifically noted his expectations that the bailiff would be available to serve civil papers when the judge is on vacation, that the bailiff would be an employee of the Mercer County Sheriff's Department, and that he or she would be subject to the same policy as other members of the Sheriff's Department. Judge Frazier responded and suggested a number of options that he thought would satisfy Sheriff Meadows' concerns. Judge Frazier also wrote a similar letter to Commission President Rapp. The correspondence between the Sheriff, Commission President Rapp, and Judge Frazier continued without resolution.

In an effort to amicably conclude this matter, Judge Frazier, Sheriff Meadows, Commission President Rapp, T.A. Warden, a member of the County Commission, and a number of other individuals met on May 31, 1994. The group decided that Judge Frazier would interview any deputy sheriff that applied, but could hire from the civilian population. The salary range for the bailiff was $15,000-$18,000 annually and the bailiff position was to be moved from the Sheriff's Department to the Office of the Circuit Clerk, upon action of the Mercer County Wage and Hour Review Board.

By letter dated June 3, 1994, President Rapp, in his capacity as the Chairperson of the Mercer County Wage and Hour Review Board, denied the relator's request for a civilian bailiff because he believed statutory law and Rule VII of the Trial Court Rules required them to deny the request. Shortly thereafter, Sheriff Meadows informed the court's bailiff that his services were no longer needed. 2 Judge Frazier was in the midst of an extended trial when the Sheriff took this unilateral action, and he asked his bailiff to remain in service and agreed to pay the bailiff's expenses personally, if necessary. 3

Sheriff Meadows then assigned Deputy Sheriff Roger Kessinger as bailiff pursuant to W.Va.Code, 51-3-5, and Rule VII of the West Virginia Trial Court Rules. The bailiff came under the Sheriff's control and supervision. Thus, the Sheriff retained the authority to assign the bailiff to other jobs, promote him, set his pay, promulgate policy changes affecting him, and grant his request for vacation.

II.

A.

The primary issue presented in this original proceeding is whether the judges of the circuit courts have the authority to hire and control their bailiffs. The relator and the West Virginia Judicial Association, through an amicus curiae brief, argue that the circuit court judge has the exclusive authority to control court employees. On the other hand, the respondents argue that W.Va.Code, 51-3-5, and Rule VII of the West Virginia Trial Court Rules place court bailiffs under the supervision and control of the Sheriffs' Departments.

We begin, as we must, by examining the statutory language, bearing in mind that we should give effect to the legislative will as expressed in the language of the statute. Landreth Timber Co. v. Landreth, 471 U.S. 681, 105 S.Ct. 2297, 85 L.Ed.2d 692 (1985). Generally, words are given their common usage. See State ex rel. Underwood v. Silverstein, 167 W.Va. 121, 125, 278 S.E.2d 886, 889 (1981) (quoting Syllabus Point 2, State v.

Page 69

[193 W.Va. 24] Elder, 152 W.Va. 571, 165 S.E.2d 108 (1968) stated "[w]here the language of a statute is clear and without ambiguity the plain meaning is to be accepted without resorting to the rules of interpretation."); see also, Gant v. Waggy, 180 W.Va. 481, 483, 377 S.E.2d 473, 475 (1988) (stating that "this Court ... will not change the plain language employed in framing the statute"); Palestine Info. Office v. Shultz, 853 F.2d 932, 938 (D.C.Cir.1988). Courts are not free to read into the language what is not there, but rather should apply the statute as written. If the statute "is clear," Syllabus Point 1, State ex rel. Estes v. Egnor, 191 W.Va. 36, 443 S.E.2d 193 (1994); if "the statutory scheme is coherent and consistent," United States v. Ron Pair Enterprises, Inc., 489 U.S. 235, 240, 109 S.Ct. 1026, 1030, 103 L.Ed.2d 290, 298 (1989); and if the law is within the constitutional authority of the lawmaking body that passed it, then the duty of interpretation does not arise, and the rules for ascertaining uncertain language need no discussion. Syllabus Point 1, W.Va. Radiologic Technology Bd. of Examiners v. Darby, 189 W.Va. 52, 427 S.E.2d 486 (1993). 4

Although courts should not ordinarily stray beyond the plain language of unambiguous statutes, we recognize the need to depart from the statutory language in exceptional circumstances. 2A G. Sutherland, Statutory Construction § 46.07 at 126 (5th ed. 1991) (collecting exceptions). Courts, therefore, may venture beyond the plain meaning of a statute in the rare instances in which there is a clearly expressed legislative intent to the contrary, Russello v. United States, 464 U.S. 16, 20-21, 104 S.Ct. 296, 299-300, 78 L.Ed.2d 17, 22-23 (1983); in...

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66 practice notes
  • State v. Hutton, No. 14–0603.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 16 juin 2015
    ...not free to read into the language what is not there, but rather should apply the statute as written.” State ex rel. Frazier v. Meadows, 193 W.Va. 20, 24, 454 S.E.2d 65, 69 (1994). We further have held that “[w]hen a statute is clear and unambiguous and the legislative intent is plain, the ......
  • State v. Wadsworth, No. 67454-0.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • 13 janvier 2000
    ...200 W.Va. 802, 490 S.E.2d 891 (1997); County of Barnstable v. Commonwealth, 422 Mass. 33, 661 N.E.2d 47 (1996); Frazier v. Meadows, 193 W.Va. 20, 454 S.E.2d 65 (1994); In re Alamance County Court Facilities, 329 N.C. 84, 405 S.E.2d 125 (1991); O'Coin's, Inc. v. Treasurer, 362 Mass. 507, 287......
  • Associated Press v. Canterbury, No. 34768.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 12 novembre 2009
    ...cannot substitute its own judgment for that of the legislature and significantly rewrite the statute."); State ex rel. Frazier v. Meadows, 193 W.Va. 20, 24, 454 S.E.2d 65, 69 (1994) ("Courts are not free to read into the language what is not there, but rather should apply the statute as If ......
  • Morrisey v. Afl-Cio, No. 17-0187.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 2 octobre 2017
    ...Marketing, 196 W.Va. 346, 472 S.E.2d 792 (1996) (citations omitted).6 Syllabus Point 2, in part, State ex rel. Frazier v. Meadows, 193 W.Va. 20, 454 S.E.2d 65 (1994) ("Acts of the Legislature are presumed to be constitutional, and courts will interpret legislation in any reasonable way whic......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
66 cases
  • State v. Hutton, No. 14–0603.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 16 juin 2015
    ...not free to read into the language what is not there, but rather should apply the statute as written.” State ex rel. Frazier v. Meadows, 193 W.Va. 20, 24, 454 S.E.2d 65, 69 (1994). We further have held that “[w]hen a statute is clear and unambiguous and the legislative intent is plain, the ......
  • State v. Wadsworth, No. 67454-0.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • 13 janvier 2000
    ...200 W.Va. 802, 490 S.E.2d 891 (1997); County of Barnstable v. Commonwealth, 422 Mass. 33, 661 N.E.2d 47 (1996); Frazier v. Meadows, 193 W.Va. 20, 454 S.E.2d 65 (1994); In re Alamance County Court Facilities, 329 N.C. 84, 405 S.E.2d 125 (1991); O'Coin's, Inc. v. Treasurer, 362 Mass. 507, 287......
  • Associated Press v. Canterbury, No. 34768.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 12 novembre 2009
    ...cannot substitute its own judgment for that of the legislature and significantly rewrite the statute."); State ex rel. Frazier v. Meadows, 193 W.Va. 20, 24, 454 S.E.2d 65, 69 (1994) ("Courts are not free to read into the language what is not there, but rather should apply the statute as If ......
  • Morrisey v. Afl-Cio, No. 17-0187.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 2 octobre 2017
    ...Marketing, 196 W.Va. 346, 472 S.E.2d 792 (1996) (citations omitted).6 Syllabus Point 2, in part, State ex rel. Frazier v. Meadows, 193 W.Va. 20, 454 S.E.2d 65 (1994) ("Acts of the Legislature are presumed to be constitutional, and courts will interpret legislation in any reasonable way whic......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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