Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 15.2. Counties, Cities and Towns
Chapter 16. Local Constitutional Officers, Courthouses and Supplies
12/5/2022

Article 8. Courthouses.

§ 15.2-1638. County or city governing body to provide courthouse, clerk's office, jail and suitable facilities for attorney for the Commonwealth; acquisition of land.

The governing body of every county and city shall provide courthouses with suitable space and facilities to accommodate the various courts and officials thereof serving the county or city; within or outside such courthouses, a clerk's office, the record room of which shall be fireproof; a jail; and, upon request therefor, suitable space and facilities for the attorney for the Commonwealth to discharge the duties of his office. The costs thereof and of the land on which they may be, and of keeping the same in good order, shall be chargeable to the county or city. The fee simple of the lands and of the buildings and improvements thereon utilized for such courthouses shall be in the county or city, or jointly in a county and a city, and the governing body of the county or city may purchase so much of such property, as, with what it has, may be necessary for the purposes enumerated or for any other proper purpose of the county or city. However, any portion of the property owned by a county and located within a city or town and not actually occupied by the courthouse, clerk's office, or jail may be sold or exchanged and conveyed to such city or town to be used for street or other public purposes. Any such sale or exchange by the governing body of a county shall be made in accordance with the provisions of § 15.2-1800.

The amendments contained in Chapter 90 of the 1986 Acts of Assembly shall not apply to the City of Virginia Beach.

Code 1950, §§ 15-686, 15-688; 1954, cc. 49, 264; 1956, c. 329; 1960, c. 145; 1962, cc. 283, 489, 623, § 15.1-257; 1964, c. 241; 1986, c. 90; 1997, c. 587; 2007, c. 813; 2019, c. 240.

§ 15.2-1638.1. Administrative assistants in offices of circuit court judges who are employees of a locality.

An employee, not employed by a constitutional officer, hired and paid by a county or city to assist with the administration of a circuit court judge's office shall serve at the sole direction and under the sole supervision of such judge. Nothing herein shall be construed to affect the authority of the circuit court clerk to (i) perform statutory duties with respect to court administration or (ii) assign deputy clerks to provide judicial assistance to the court, at the sole discretion of the clerk.

2020, c. 1061.

§ 15.2-1639. Providing offices for various officers, judges, etc.

The governing body of each county and city shall, if there are offices in the courthouses of the respective counties and cities available for such purposes, provide offices for the treasurer, attorney for the Commonwealth, sheriff, commissioner of the revenue, commissioner of accounts and division superintendent of schools for such county or city. Any such governing body may, if there are offices in their respective courthouses available for such purposes, provide offices for the judge of any court sitting in the county or city, and any judge of the Court of Appeals or justice of the Supreme Court who may reside in the county or city, and if such offices are not available in the courthouse, offices may be provided by the governing body, if they deem it proper, elsewhere than in the courthouse of the county or city.

Code 1950, § 15-689; 1962, c. 623, § 15.1-258; 1984, c. 703; 1997, c. 587.

§ 15.2-1640. Renting rooms in courthouse.

With the approval of the judge of the circuit court for the county or for the city, any vacant rooms in the courthouse, after furnishing offices to the officers listed in § 15.2-1639, may be rented for a term of not exceeding one year to other persons for office purposes, and any public room or hall in the building may be hired for compensation for the purpose of giving public entertainments. All moneys received by the counties or cities under this section, shall constitute a fund to maintain and care for such building.

Code 1950, § 15-690; 1962, c. 623, § 15.1-259; 1997, c. 587.

§ 15.2-1641. Leasing or other use of other buildings.

When the governing body of any county or city, pursuant to § 15.2-1638, has purchased or may hereafter purchase any land, a part of which has valuable buildings thereon, whether when so purchased or since constructed, and that portion of the land so occupied by such buildings, or the buildings thereon is, in the discretion of such governing body, not required for the purposes mentioned in § 15.2-1639, such governing body, if deemed proper by it, may either lease such building or buildings for private or other purposes, or remodel and use the same for other public purposes. However, the lease or use shall be first approved by the judge of the circuit court for the county or for the city, as the case may be, and such lease or use shall be terminated when, in the opinion of such judge, the building or buildings or the land occupied by the same, is needed for any of the purposes enumerated in § 15.2-1638.

Code 1950, § 15-691; 1962, c. 623, § 15.1-260; 1997, c. 587.

§ 15.2-1642. Certain conveyances of courthouse grounds validated.

Any other provision of law to the contrary, notwithstanding, any conveyance made prior to January 1, 1954, by a county, of a portion of the county courthouse grounds, to a town to be used for public purposes, shall be in all respects valid.

Code 1950, § 15-692.1; 1954, c. 150; 1962, c. 623, § 15.1-263; 1997, c. 587.

§ 15.2-1643. Circuit courts to order court facilities to be repaired.

A. When it appears to the circuit court for any county or city, from the report of persons appointed to examine the court facilities, or otherwise, that the court facilities of such county or city are insecure, out of repair, or otherwise pose a danger to the health, welfare and safety of court employees or the public, the court shall enter an order, in the name and on behalf of the Commonwealth against the supervisors of the county, or the members of the council of the city, as the case may be, to show cause why a mandamus should not issue, commanding them to cause the court facilities of such county or city to be made secure, or put in good repair, or rendered otherwise safe as the case may be, and to proceed as in other cases of mandamus, to cause the necessary work to be done. The court shall cause a copy of such order to be served upon each supervisor or member of the council, as the case may be.

B. Upon the entry of such order, as provided in subsection A hereof, the chief judge of the circuit shall forthwith notify the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the entry thereof. Upon receipt of the notice, the Chief Justice shall assign a judge of a circuit remote from the circuit wherein the repairs are alleged to be necessary to hear and determine whether, after consideration of such matters as set forth in subdivisions 1 through 4, the court facilities are in fact insecure or out of repair or otherwise pose a danger to the health, welfare and safety of court employees or the public and the extent to which repairs, if any, are necessary.

Before a mandamus is issued, if the concerned governing body elects, or if the pleadings allege that the court facilities are in fact insecure or out of repair, or otherwise pose a danger to the health, welfare and safety of court employees or the public, the local governing body shall appoint a five-member panel, three of whom shall be qualified by training and experience as either an architect or a professional engineer, not representing the same firms, to review the court facilities in question and make recommendations to the local governing body and circuit court judge assigned by the Chief Justice concerning the construction or repairs deemed necessary.

In making their recommendations, the panel shall consider matters such as, but not limited to, the following:

1. Security provisions to safeguard court personnel, participants and the public;

2. Efficient layout and circulation patterns to maximize public access, promote efficient operations, and accommodate the diverse users;

3. Provision of administrative and service areas, judges' chambers, hearing rooms, conference rooms, prison holding areas, and public information areas; and

4. Comfort, safety and obsolescence of the existing facility or any part thereof.

The existing facilities shall be considered in relationship to their location and the extent of their use, and their failure to meet any of these general considerations shall not necessarily be deemed a cause for determining them inadequate.

In making their recommendations, the panel may consult recognized national standard works in the field.

All costs, fees and expenses of the five-member panel, after approval by the local governing body, shall be paid by the county or city that appointed the panel.

C. If, after hearing, the court finds that the court facilities are not insecure or out of repair or otherwise unsafe, or having been in such condition, that the necessary repairs have been made, the court shall vacate the order. If the court finds that the court facilities are insecure or out of repair or otherwise unsafe, it shall issue its mandamus as provided in subsection A.

D. Appeals shall be allowed to the Court of Appeals as appeals from courts of equity are allowed.

E. Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize a circuit court to require that an additional or replacement courthouse be constructed.

Code 1950, § 15-693.1; 1962, c. 623, § 15.1-267; 1975, c. 444; 1979, c. 507; 1997, c. 587; 2002, c. 758; 2012, cc. 805, 836; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 489.

§ 15.2-1644. Petition for removal of county courthouse; writ of election.

A. Whenever a number of voters equal to at least one third of the voters of a county registered in the county on the January 1 preceding filing of the petition, petition the circuit court of such county, or whenever the governing body of any county by resolution duly adopted requests the circuit court for such county, for an election in such county on the question of the removal of the courthouse to one or more places specified in the petition or resolution, such court shall issue a writ of election in accordance with Article 5 (§ 24.2-681 et seq.) of Chapter 6 of Title 24.2, which shall fix the day of holding such election. Such petition shall also state the amount to be appropriated by the board of supervisors for the purchase of land, unless the land is to be donated, and for the erection of necessary buildings and improvements at the new location.

B. If the courthouse is used before and after removal for any city as well as for the county, then the petition shall be signed by a number of voters equal to at least one-third of the total number of voters registered in the locality on the January 1 preceding filing of the petition. The registered voters of such city shall be eligible to sign the petition. The petition shall state the amounts to be appropriated by both the county and city. The voters of such city shall be eligible to vote in any election on the question of relocating the courthouse. The court shall issue a writ of election to such city the same as issued to and for the county.

The votes of such city voters shall be treated as if they were cast by qualified voters of the county for the purposes of these sections (§§ 15.2-1644 through 15.2-1654).

C. In the case of the removal of a county courthouse that is not located in a city or town, and that is not being relocated to a city or town, such removal shall not require a petition or approval by the voters. However, this subsection shall not apply to the removal or relocation of any county courthouse, whether located on county or city property, that is entirely surrounded by a city, and any such courthouse shall be removed or relocated only in accordance with the provisions of subsections A and B.

Code 1950, § 15-43; 1956, c. 95; 1962, c. 623, § 15.1-559; 1971, Ex. Sess., cc. 42, 245; 1975, c. 517; 1978, c. 380; 1997, c. 587; 2017, c. 487; 2018, c. 732.

§ 15.2-1645. How election held and conducted.

The election specified in § 15.2-1644 shall be held and conducted as other special elections are held and conducted.

Code 1950, § 15-44; 1962, c. 623, § 15.1-560; 1971, Ex. Sess., cc. 42, 245; 1997, c. 587.

§ 15.2-1646. Certification of result to board of supervisors; procuring land and buildings; relocation to contiguous or nearby land.

If it appears from the returns that a majority of the votes cast at the election specified in § 15.2-1644 are for the removal of the courthouse to one of the places specified in the petition or resolution, the results shall be certified to the board of supervisors of the county, with the amount authorized to be expended for land, if not donated, and for necessary buildings and improvements. If the vote is for removal, the board of supervisors shall at once proceed to acquire the necessary land at the new location, if the same has not been donated, and to erect the necessary buildings and improvements.

The relocation or expansion of a courthouse to (i) land contiguous with its present location, including contiguous property directly across a public right-of-way, or (ii) any property within 1,000 feet of the parcel upon which the courthouse is located, and within the same county, city, or town is not such a removal as to require authorization by the electorate.

The provisions of these sections requiring authorization by the electorate shall not apply, in the case of a joint court system, between Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville, James City County and the City of Williamsburg, York County and the City of Poquoson, and Greensville County and the City of Emporia, to the relocation of the courthouse to other land within the localities which it serves, from its present location, if the governing bodies find by concurrent resolutions that the existing courthouse is inadequate and that renovation or expansion of the existing courthouse is not feasible.

Code 1950, § 15-45; 1956, c. 95; 1962, c. 623, § 15.1-561; 1971, Ex. Sess., cc. 42, 245; 1975, c. 59; 1976, c. 497; 1994, c. 504; 1997, cc. 587, 598; 2005, c. 36; 2018, c. 582; 2020, c. 139.

§ 15.2-1647. Removal of court.

As soon as the courthouse is completed, the board of supervisors shall certify the fact to the judge of the circuit court for the county, who shall, after sixty days' notice, to be published in a newspaper in the county if any, and if none, then in a newspaper having general circulation in the county, order his court to be held in the new location.

Code 1950, § 15-46; 1962, c. 623, § 15.1-562; 1997, c. 587.

§ 15.2-1648. Donation of land and money.

Any town or individual may donate to the county the land necessary for its uses at any of the locations named in the petition, which shall not be less than one acre, and may offer as an inducement for such removal such sum of money as may be desired. Any offer to donate the land shall be accompanied by a deed for the land, to be regularly executed and placed in the hands of the clerk of the county. Any offer of money shall be accompanied by a certified check or other satisfactory security to be likewise placed in the hands of the clerk to be delivered by him to the treasurer of the county. If the location stated in the deed or offer of money is selected by the voters, the treasurer shall record the deed and collect and place the fund to the credit of the county to be drawn on by the board of supervisors as hereinafter directed.

Code 1950, § 15-47; 1962, c. 623, § 15.1-563; 1997, c. 587.

§ 15.2-1649. Town may issue bonds to finance donation; election on bonds.

When any town desires to donate to the county any land or sums of money as an inducement for such removal and the town has not sufficient funds in its treasury as it may desire to offer, the town may borrow the money and issue its bonds therefor. Whenever a number of voters equal to at least twenty-five percent of the voters of such town, registered in the town on the January 1 preceding the filing of the petition, petition the circuit court for the county wherein such town is located for an election to be held on such bond issue, the circuit court shall, in accordance with Article 5 (§ 24.2-681 et seq.) of Chapter 6 of Title 24.2, issue a writ of election, ordering a special election upon such bond issue, in which the date of holding such election in the town shall be fixed. Such petition shall state the purposes for which the proceeds of such bond issue shall be used, and the amount of such issue. The election shall be held and the vote canvassed and returns made in accordance with the requirements of the general election law, except that the certificate of the electoral board shall be as follows:

"We hereby certify that at the election held in the town of............ on the.......... day of.........., 20....., upon the question of a bond issue of.......... dollars, to be used as a donation to.......... county as an inducement for removal of the courthouse of the county to the town,..... votes were cast for the bond issue and..... votes were cast against the bond issue."

The ballots used in the election shall be as follows:

"Shall the Town of............. issue bonds to the amount of............ dollars to be used as a donation to.......... County, as an inducement for the removal of the courthouse?

[ ] Yes

[ ] No"

The electoral board shall certify in duplicate the vote cast in such elections, for and against the bond issue, one of such certificates to be filed with the clerk of the county and the other with the judge of the circuit court.

Such election shall be subject to inquiry in the manner provided by § 15.2-1654.

Code 1950, § 15-48; 1962, c. 623, § 15.1-564; 1975, c. 517; 1997, c. 587.

§ 15.2-1650. When and how council to issue bonds; payment of interest; sinking fund.

If a majority of the voters in the town taking part in such election vote in favor of the bond issue, the council of the town may issue its bonds to the amount set out in the petition, either coupon or registered, signed by its mayor, and attested by the town clerk, and deliver the same to the clerk of the county as satisfactory security for the obligations imposed by this section. The council of the town may make annual appropriations out of the revenues of the town to pay the interest on the bonds and to provide a sinking fund for the redemption of the bonds by special levy or otherwise.

Code 1950, § 15-49; 1962, c. 623, § 15.1-565; 1997, c. 587.

§ 15.2-1651. When supervisors may issue bonds of county.

If the land is not donated, and the fund offered is not sufficient to acquire the land and erect the necessary buildings, or if the land is donated and the fund offered is not sufficient for the purposes aforesaid, the board of supervisors may issue the bonds of the county to an amount which with the fund offered shall be equal to the amount set out in the petition, and the proceeds of the bonds with the amount donated shall constitute the fund out of which the land shall be acquired, if not donated, and the buildings erected and improvements made. If the financial condition of the county is such as to render the issue of bonds unnecessary, the supervisors may decline to issue them. However, the amount expended shall not exceed the amount named in the petition and authorized by the voters.

Code 1950, § 15-50; 1962, c. 623, § 15.1-566; 1997, c. 587.

§ 15.2-1652. Form of ballots for county election on removal and appropriation; certificate of electoral board.

The ballots used in the election required by § 15.2-1644 shall be as follows:

"Shall the courthouse be removed to........., and shall the Board of Supervisors be permitted to spend $..... therefor?

[ ] Yes

[ ] No"

The manner of ascertaining the vote and making returns thereof shall conform in all respects to the requirements of the general election law, except that the certificate of the electoral board shall be as follows:

"We hereby certify, that at the election held on the.......... day of........., 20....., upon the question of removing the courthouse to.......... and permitting the expenditure of $..... therefor,..... votes were cast Yes; and..... votes were cast No."

Code 1950, § 15-51; 1962, c. 623, § 15.1-567; 1971, Ex. Sess., cc. 42, 245; 1977, c. 306; 1997, c. 587.

§ 15.2-1653. Ascertaining results.

The electoral board shall ascertain the vote from the returns, and shall certify in duplicate the votes cast for removal and authorizing the expenditure of the amount stated in the petition and against removal. One of the certificates shall be filed with the county clerk and the other with the judge of the circuit court.

Code 1950, § 15-52; 1962, c. 623, § 15.1-568; 1971, Ex. Sess., cc. 42, 245; 1997, c. 587.

§ 15.2-1654. Contest of election.

Returns in such election shall be subject to the inquiry, determination and judgment of the circuit court for the county in which the election is held, upon complaint of fifteen or more voters of the county of an undue election or false return. The complaint shall fully set out the grounds of contest and, if any votes were improperly received or rejected, shall give a list of such votes, with objections to the action of the election officials in receiving or rejecting the same. Two of the persons making the complaint shall take and subscribe an oath that the facts therein stated are true to the best of their knowledge and belief. The complaint shall be filed in the office of the clerk of the circuit court for the county in which such election is held. Notice of contest, stating that the complaint has been filed in the clerk's office, shall be given by posting the same at the courthouse door and at two or more public places in the county, and by publishing it once a week for two successive weeks in some newspaper published in the county or, if there is none so published, then in some newspaper having general circulation in the county. The time and place of taking depositions, if any, shall be stated in the notice, which shall entitle the parties giving the notice to take the depositions to be read as evidence in the contest. The complaint shall be filed and notice given within ten days after the election, otherwise the complaint shall not be valid. Any one or more persons who voted at such removal election may, within thirty days from the election, file in the circuit court clerk's office an answer to the complaint, in which any of the allegations of the complaint may be denied, and any statement made going to show the regularity of the old election, and the propriety of the action of the election officials in receiving or rejecting the votes set out in the complaint, and a list of the votes he or they will dispute. If the respondents desire to take depositions, notice thereof shall be given to any one or more of the persons signing the complaint. If no answer is filed to the complaint within thirty days from the election, no one shall be heard to deny the allegations of the complaint, but the persons making the same shall prove the allegations thereof to the satisfaction of the court. The circuit court for the county in which the election is held, after the expiration of thirty days from the election, shall proceed to pass upon the complaint without a jury, on such depositions as may have been taken under the notices aforesaid, and upon such other legal testimony as may be adduced by either party at the hearing of the case. In judging such election and return, the court shall proceed on the merits thereof and decide the same on the Constitution and laws and according to the right of the case and shall enter such order as will carry its decision into full and complete effect. The judgment of the court shall be final.

Code 1950, § 15-53; 1962, c. 623, § 15.1-569; 1997, c. 587.

§ 15.2-1655. No other election held for ten years.

After an election has been held in any county upon the question of the removal of its courthouse, no other such election shall be held within ten years.

Code 1950, § 15-54; 1962, c. 623, § 15.1-570; 1997, c. 587.