Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 16.1. Courts Not of Record
Chapter 4.1. District Courts
12/5/2022

Article 3. Administration and Supervision of the District Courts.

§ 16.1-69.30. District system within unified court system.

The district court system shall be within the unified court system of the Commonwealth subordinate to the Supreme Court and subject to the administrative supervision of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

1972, c. 708; 1973, c. 546.

§ 16.1-69.31. The duties of the Judicial Council.

The duties of the Judicial Council with respect to the district court system shall include those set forth in §§ 16.1-69.6 through 16.1-69.12, and such other duties as may be assigned to the Council by law.

1972, c. 708; 1973, c. 546; 2018, c. 164.

§ 16.1-69.32. Rules.

The Supreme Court may formulate rules of practice and procedure for the general district courts and juvenile and domestic relations district courts following consultation with the Chairmen of the House Committee for Courts of Justice and the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and the executive committee of the Judicial Conference of Virginia for District Courts. Such rules, subject to the strict construction of the provisions of § 8.01-3, which shall be the only rules of practice and procedure in all the district courts in the Commonwealth, shall be included in the Code of Virginia as provided in § 8.01-3, subject to revision by the General Assembly.

1972, c. 708; 1973, c. 546; 1975, c. 334; 1976, c. 306.

§ 16.1-69.32:1. Substitution of counsel.

Except in case of court-appointed counsel, no rule of court shall be made or construed so as to preclude substitution of counsel in civil and criminal cases in the district courts, nor shall any order or appearance in person, be required, to relieve original counsel of his duties in any such case. It shall be sufficient that new counsel represents to the court that the substitution is made pursuant to agreement by the parties represented and original counsel.

1980, c. 434.

§ 16.1-69.33. Committee on District Courts.

There is hereby established a Committee on District Courts to be composed of the Majority Leader of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Delegates, the Chairman of the House Committee for Courts of Justice or his designee who shall be a member of the committee, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary or his designee who shall be a member of the committee, two members of the House Committee for Courts of Justice to be appointed by the chairman of the committee, and two members of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary to be appointed by the chairman of the committee, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia who shall be chair of the Committee, one judge of a circuit court, two general district court judges and two juvenile and domestic relations district court judges. The judicial members of the Committee on District Courts shall be made to give representation insofar as feasible to various geographic areas of the Commonwealth. The judicial members of the Committee on District Courts shall be appointed by, and serve at the pleasure of the Chief Justice.

The Committee shall meet at such times and places as it may from time to time designate for the purposes of authorizing the appointment of substitute judges pursuant to § 16.1-69.14, authorizing the establishment of clerks' offices in counties or cities as may be requisite, and establishing when such offices shall be open for business, authorizing the appointment of personnel for the district courts pursuant to Article 4 (§ 16.1-69.37 et seq.) of this chapter and establishing procedures for administrative review of appeals from personnel actions for district court personnel and magistrates, fixing salary classification schedules of court personnel pursuant to Article 5 (§ 16.1-69.44 et seq.) of this chapter and establishing vacation and sick leave for district court judges, district court personnel and magistrates, and for such other duties or matters as are now, or may hereafter be conferred upon the Committee by law. The Committee may also adopt an official seal and authorize its use by district court clerks and deputy clerks of the district courts. Such salary classification schedules, vacation and sick leave policies shall be uniform throughout the Commonwealth.

The Committee on District Courts shall have sole authority and discretion in adjusting salary classification schedules for district court personnel. The Committee shall fix such salaries for the several district court personnel at least annually at such time as it deems it proper and as soon as practicable thereafter certify to the Comptroller and the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court a detailed statement of the salaries fixed by them for the several district courts and the effective date of any salary adjustments.

The Committee on District Courts shall appoint (i) a Clerk's Advisory Committee composed of two clerks from the general district courts and two clerks from the juvenile and domestic relations district courts; such appointments shall be made after giving due consideration to former clerks of county and municipal courts not of record; (ii) a Magistrate's Advisory Committee composed of two magistrates; such advisory committees are to make recommendations to the Committee regarding administrative functions of the district courts.

For the performance of their duties, the Committee shall be reimbursed out of the money appropriated for the adjudication of cases in the district trial courts for their actual expenses incurred in the performance of their duties and in addition, per diem compensation allowed for members of the General Assembly for each day spent in performing such duties; provided, however, that no additional compensation shall be paid to members of the judiciary serving on the Committee.

In the event of the establishment of personal liability of a district court judge or magistrate for the loss of property or money from a district court or magistrate's office by reason of robbery or burglary, the Committee on District Courts shall have the authority, after appropriate investigation and upon its determination that the individual judge or magistrate was not negligent in the performance of his duties, to reimburse such judge or magistrate to the extent of his personal liability on a warrant of the Comptroller issued as provided by law. However, such reimbursement shall not exceed $1,000 per claim. This paragraph shall apply to all claims arising on and after July 1, 1976.

1972, c. 708; 1973, cc. 546, 547; 1974, cc. 333, 484; 1975, c. 334; 1976, cc. 52, 444; 1978, c. 133; 1984, c. 23; 1992, c. 497; 2001, c. 367; 2004, c. 330; 2008, c. 115; 2015, c. 331.

§ 16.1-69.34. Reserved.

Reserved.

§ 16.1-69.35. Administrative duties of chief district judge.

The chief judge of each district shall have the following administrative duties and authority with respect to his district:

1. When any district court judge is under any disability or for any other cause is unable to hold court and the chief judge determines that assistance is needed:

a. The chief district judge shall designate a judge within the district or a judge of another district court within the Commonwealth, if one is reasonably available, to hear and dispose of any action or actions properly coming before such district court for disposition;

b. If unable to designate a judge as provided in subdivision 1 a, the chief district judge may designate a retired district judge eligible for recall pursuant to § 16.1-69.22:1 for such hearing and disposition if such judge consents; or

c. If unable to assign a retired district court judge, the chief district judge may designate a retired circuit court judge eligible for recall pursuant to § 17.1-106 if such judge consents or the chief district judge may request that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court designate a circuit judge if such judge consents.

If no judges are available under subdivision a, b or c, then a substitute judge shall be designated pursuant to § 16.1-69.21.

While acting, any judge so designated shall have all the authority and power of the judge of the court, and his order or judgment shall, to all intents and purposes, be the judgment of the court. A general district court judge designated pursuant to subdivision 1 a, may, with his consent, substitute for or replace a juvenile and domestic relations district court judge, and vice versa. The names of the judges designated under subdivisions b and c shall be selected from a list provided by the Executive Secretary and approved by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

2. The chief general district court judge of a district may designate any juvenile and domestic relations district court judge of the district, with the judge's consent, for an individual case or to sit and hear cases for a period of not more than one year, in any of the general district courts within the district. The chief juvenile and domestic relations district court judge of a district may designate any general district court judge of the district, with the judge's consent, for an individual case or to sit and hear cases for a period of not more than one year, in any of the juvenile and domestic relations district courts within the district. Every judge so designated shall have the same powers and jurisdiction and be authorized to perform the same duties as any judge of the district for which he is designated to assist, and, while so acting, his order or judgment shall be, for all purposes, the judgment of the court to which he is assigned.

3. If on account of congestion in the work of any district court or when in his opinion the administration of justice so requires, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court may, upon his own initiative or upon written application of the chief district court judge desiring assistance, designate a judge from another district or any circuit court judge, if such circuit court judge consents, or a retired judge eligible for recall, to provide judicial assistance to such district. Every judge so designated shall have the same powers and jurisdiction and be authorized to perform the same duties as any judge of the district for which he is designated to assist and while so acting his order or judgment shall be, to all intents and purposes, the judgment of the court to which he is assigned.

4. Subject to such rules as may be established pursuant to § 16.1-69.32, the chief judge may establish special divisions of any general district court when the work of the court may be more efficiently handled thereby such as through the establishment of special civil, criminal or traffic divisions, and he may assign the judges of the general district court with respect to serving such special divisions. In the City of Richmond the general district court shall, in addition to any specialized divisions, maintain a separate division of such court in that part of Richmond south of the James River with concurrent jurisdiction over all matters arising in the City of Richmond.

5. Subject to such rules as may be established pursuant to § 16.1-69.32, the chief judge shall determine when the district courts or divisions of such courts shall be open for the transaction of business. The chief judge or presiding judge of any district court may authorize the clerk's office to close on any date when the chief judge or presiding judge determines that operation of the clerk's office, under prevailing conditions, would constitute a threat to the health or safety of the clerk's office personnel or the general public. Closing of the clerk's office pursuant to this subsection shall have the same effect as provided in subsection B of § 1-210. In determining whether to close because of a threat to the health or safety of the general public, the chief judge or the presiding judge of the district court shall coordinate with the chief judge or presiding judge of the circuit court so that, where possible and appropriate, both the circuit and district courts take the same action. He shall determine the times each such court shall be held for the trial of civil, criminal or traffic matters and cases. He shall determine whether, in the case of district courts in counties, court shall be held at any place or places in addition to the county seat or other place expressly authorized by statute. He shall determine the office hours and arrange a vacation schedule of the judges within his district, in order to ensure the availability of a judge or judges to the public at normal times of business. A schedule of the times and places at which court is held shall be filed with the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court and kept posted at the courthouse, and in any county also at any such other place or places where court may be held, and the clerk shall make such schedules available to the public upon request. Any matter may, in the discretion of the judge, or by direction of the chief district judge, be removed from any one of such designated places to another, or to or from the county seat or other place expressly authorized by statute, in order to serve the convenience of the parties or to expedite the administration of justice; however, any town having a population of over 15,000 as of July 1, 1972, having court facilities and a court with both general criminal and civil jurisdiction prior to July 1, 1972, shall be designated by the chief judge as a place to hold court.

6. Subject to the provisions of § 16.1-69.38, the chief judge of a general district court or the chief judge of a juvenile and domestic relations district court may establish a voluntary civil mediation program for the alternate resolution of disputes. The costs of the program shall be paid by the local governing bodies within the district or by the parties who voluntarily participate in the program.

1972, c. 708; 1973, c. 546; 1976, cc. 307, 444; 1978, c. 200; 1984, c. 570; 1987, c. 703; 1989, c. 264; 1991, cc. 177, 392; 1992, c. 387; 1995, c. 57; 2001, c. 494; 2003, c. 102; 2005, cc. 207, 839; 2006, c. 144; 2014, c. 776; 2017, cc. 37, 225; 2019, cc. 240, 321, 526.

§ 16.1-69.35:01. Location of district courts for Albemarle County.

The Albemarle General District Court and the Albemarle Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court may sit in the City of Charlottesville on property immediately across the street from the county courthouse.

2019, c. 240.

§ 16.1-69.35:1. Location of district courts for Carroll County.

The General District Court and the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court for Carroll County shall sit at the Carroll County Courthouse in Hillsville.

1974, c. 508.

§ 16.1-69.35:2. Recording of proceedings in district courts.

An audio recording of proceedings in a general district court may be made by a party or his counsel.

1985, c. 378; 2014, c. 268.

§ 16.1-69.36. Where process returnable and trials held in certain cases.

All process, civil and criminal, returnable before a district court of a county shall, if the defendants or any of them reside in a city or town in which the court is held, be made returnable at the courtroom or place the court is held in such city or town, but if none of the defendants reside therein it shall be made returnable to the county seat, or to one of the other places where the court is held, whichever shall be nearer or more accessible to such defendant or defendants. If the process is made returnable to some other place than the county seat the place to which it is returnable shall be designated therein. For all jurisdictional requirements hereunder the county seat and each and all of the places designated for the holding of the court shall be deemed to be a part of each and every magisterial district in the county.

1972, c. 708; 1973, c. 546.