Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 17.1. Courts of Record
Chapter 3. Supreme Court
3/4/2021

Article 1. Composition, Jurisdiction, Etc.

§ 17.1-300. Composition of Court; quorum; Chief Justice.

The Supreme Court shall consist of seven justices, any four of whom convened shall constitute a quorum. The Chief Justice shall be elected by majority vote of the justices of the Supreme Court to serve a term of four years. An eligible justice may decline to serve as Chief Justice, or a Chief Justice may resign as such, without thereby relinquishing his membership on the Court as a justice thereof.

Code 1919, § 5862, § 17-93; 1938, p. 133; 1971, Ex. Sess., c. 51; 1998, c. 872; 2002, cc. 43, 552.

§ 17.1-301. Presiding justice when Chief Justice absent.

In the absence of the Chief Justice, the justice longest in continuous service present shall be the presiding justice. If two or more justices have served for the same period, the justice senior in years of these present shall be the presiding justice.

Code 1919, § 5863, § 17-95; 1938, p. 134; 1998, c. 872.

§ 17.1-302. Senior justice.

A. Any Chief Justice or justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia who is eligible for retirement, other than for disability, with the prior consent of a majority of the members of the Court, may elect to retire under the Judicial Retirement System (§ 51.1-300 et seq.) and be designated a senior justice. In addition, any Chief Justice or justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia who is retired under the Judicial Retirement System (§ 51.1-300 et seq.) shall be subject to recall, with the consent of a majority of the members of the court, and may be known and designated as a senior justice.

B. Any Chief Justice or justice who has retired from active service, as provided in subsection A, may be designated and assigned by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia to perform the duties of a justice of the Court. Such justice shall have all the powers, duties, and privileges attendant on the position for which he is recalled to serve.

C. While serving in such status, a senior justice shall be deemed to be serving in a temporary capacity and, in addition to the retirement benefits received by such justice, shall receive as compensation a sum equal to one-fourth of the total compensation of an active justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia for a similar period of service. A retired justice, while performing the duties of a senior justice, shall be furnished office space, support staff, a telephone, and supplies as are furnished a justice of the Court.

D. A justice may terminate his status as a senior justice, or such status may be terminated by a majority of the members of the Court. Each justice designated a senior justice shall serve a one-year term unless the Court, by order or otherwise, extends the term for an additional year. There shall be no limit on the number of terms a senior justice may so serve.

E. Only five retired justices shall serve as senior justices at any one time.

F. Nothing in this section shall be construed to increase the number of justices of the Supreme Court provided for in Section 2 of Article VI of the Constitution of Virginia and in § 17.1-300.

1977, c. 251, § 17-95.1; 1990, c. 897; 1998, cc. 190, 872; 2001, c. 295; 2004, c. 346; 2014, c. 776; 2018, c. 709.

§ 17.1-303. Election of successor justice before date of vacancy.

Whenever a vacancy occurs or exists in the office of a justice of the Supreme Court while the General Assembly is in session, or whenever the term of office of a justice of the Supreme Court will expire or the office will be vacated at a date certain between the adjournment of the General Assembly and the commencement of the next session of the General Assembly, a successor may be elected at any time during a session preceding the date of such vacancy, by the vote of a majority of the members elected to each house of the General Assembly, for a full term and, upon qualification, the successor shall enter at once upon the discharge of the duties of the office; however, such successor shall not qualify prior to the predecessor leaving office. No person shall be elected or reelected to a subsequent term under this section until he has submitted to a criminal history record search and submitted to a search of the central registry maintained pursuant to § 63.2-1515 for any founded complaint of child abuse or neglect and reports of such searches have been received by the chairmen of the House and Senate Committees for Courts of Justice. If the person has not met the requirement of filing in the preceding calendar year a disclosure form prescribed in § 2.2-3117 or 30-111, he shall also provide a written statement of economic interests on the disclosure form prescribed in § 2.2-3117 to the chairmen of the House and Senate Committees for Courts of Justice.

1991, c. 31, § 17-93.1; 1998, c. 872; 2004, c. 452; 2018, c. 578.

§ 17.1-304. Terms and sessions, state of emergency.

A. The Supreme Court shall hold one term annually, commencing at such time and continuing for such period as it may determine. Sessions shall be held at Richmond commencing at such times and continuing for such periods as the Court from time to time directs.

B. In the event of a state of emergency declared by the Governor pursuant to Chapter 3.2 (§ 44-146.13 et seq.) of Title 44 or declared by the President of the United States or the governor of another state pursuant to law and confirmed by the Governor by an executive order, the Supreme Court may convene at such time, in such location, and for such purposes as the Court determines is necessary for the efficient and effective administration of justice.

C. When the Court convenes pursuant to subsection B, the Court may satisfy its quorum by the presence of the justices through the use of technology.

Code 1919, § 5866, § 17-99; 1938, p. 134; 1944, p. 486; 1971, Ex. Sess., c. 51; 1972, c. 856; 1998, c. 872; 2006, c. 357.

§ 17.1-305. Special sessions.

The Supreme Court by an order entered of record, may direct a special session to be held at such time as it may deem proper.

A special session may also be held, by order of the Chief Justice in vacation, on the written request of the Governor to him, or whenever it is proper in the opinion of the Chief Justice. The time of holding the special session shall be designated in the order, which shall be directed to the clerk, who shall enter it in his record book and give notice thereof to each justice of the Court.

Code 1919, §§ 5884, 5885, §§ 17-100, 17-101; 1971, Ex. Sess., c. 51; 1998, c. 872.

§ 17.1-306. What may be tried at special session; effect of decisions.

At any such special session, the Supreme Court, by consent of the parties or their counsel, may hear and determine any cause then ready for a hearing, or, without such consent, upon twenty days' previous notice in writing, given by a party desiring a hearing to the adverse party, of his intention to insist on the same. The Court, at such special session, shall, after notice to the parties or their counsel from the clerk of the Court, hear any cause which, in its opinion, the public interest requires to be heard and determined. Any judgment, decree or order entered or made at such special session shall have the same effect and may be reviewed and reheard in like manner and subject to the same rules as a judgment, decree or order entered or made at a regular session.

Code 1919, § 5886, § 17-102; 1971, Ex. Sess., c. 51; 1998, c. 872.

§ 17.1-307. Information and recommendations as to other courts.

The Supreme Court, with the aid of the Executive Secretary, shall obtain the information to be contained in the reports to be made pursuant to § 17.1-221 and present the same to the next regular session of the General Assembly, and at each recurring session, together with any recommendation it sees fit to make, looking to the equalization of the work of the courts of record of this Commonwealth or any matter pertaining to the conduct of the work of the courts which may enable the General Assembly to have complete knowledge thereof.

Code 1919, § 3405, § 17-103; 1928, p. 1121; 1938, p. 130; 1944, p. 131; 1973, c. 544; 1998, c. 872.

§ 17.1-308. Court may sit and render final judgment en banc or in divisions; when decision becomes judgment of Court; majority must concur in declaring law unconstitutional; rehearings.

The Supreme Court may sit and render final judgment en banc or in divisions, as may be prescribed by rules of the Court not inconsistent with the provisions of this section. No decision shall become the judgment of the Court, however, except on the concurrence of at least three justices, and no law shall be declared unconstitutional under either the Constitution of Virginia or the Constitution of the United States except on the concurrence of at least a majority of all justices of the Supreme Court. If the justices composing any division differ as to the judgment to be rendered in any cause or if any justice of such division, within a time and in a manner to be fixed by the rules of the Court, shall certify that in his opinion any decision of such division of the Court is in conflict with a prior decision of the Court, or of one of the divisions thereof, the case shall be reheard and decided by the Court sitting en banc.

Code 1919, § 5862, § 17-94; 1938, p. 133; 1971, Ex. Sess., c. 51; 1998, c. 872.

§ 17.1-309. Jurisdiction of writs of mandamus and prohibition.

The Supreme Court shall have jurisdiction to issue writs of mandamus and prohibition to the circuit and district courts and to the State Corporation Commission and in all other cases in which such writs, respectively, would lie according to the principles of the common law. Provided that no writ of mandamus, prohibition or any other summary process whatever shall issue in any case of the collection of revenue or attempt to collect the same, or to compel the collecting officers to receive anything in payment of taxes except such money as is legal tender for the payment of revenue, or in any case arising out of the collection of revenue in which the applicant for the writ of process has any other remedy adequate for the protection and enforcement of his individual right, claim and demand, if just.

Code 1919, § 5864, § 17-96; 1998, c. 872.

§ 17.1-310. Habeas corpus, appeals, writs of error and supersedeas.

The Supreme Court shall also have jurisdiction to award writs of habeas corpus and of such appeals, writs of error and supersedeas as may be legally docketed in or transferred to the Court. In accordance with § 8.01-654, the Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction to award writs of habeas corpus upon petitions filed by prisoners held under the sentence of death.

Code 1919, § 5865, § 17-97; 1995, c. 503; 1998, c. 872.

§ 17.1-311. Where prohibition and mandamus issued and tried.

Writs of prohibition or mandamus from the Supreme Court shall issue and be tried at any place of session of the Court.

Code 1919, § 5872, § 17-98; 1998, c. 872.

§ 17.1-312. Where criminal jurisdiction exercised.

The appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in any criminal case may be exercised at any place of session, no matter where the court may have been held which rendered the judgment in such case.

Code 1919, § 5870, § 17-110; 1998, c. 872.

§ 17.1-313. Review of death sentence.

A. A sentence of death, upon the judgment thereon becoming final in the circuit court, shall be reviewed on the record by the Supreme Court.

B. The proceeding in the circuit court shall be transcribed as expeditiously as practicable, and the transcript filed forthwith upon transcription with the clerk of the circuit court, who shall, within ten days after receipt of the transcript, compile the record as provided in Rule 5:14 and transmit it to the Supreme Court.

C. In addition to consideration of any errors in the trial enumerated by appeal, the court shall consider and determine:

1. Whether the sentence of death was imposed under the influence of passion, prejudice or any other arbitrary factor; and

2. Whether the sentence of death is excessive or disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases, considering both the crime and the defendant.

D. In addition to the review and correction of errors in the trial of the case, with respect to review of the sentence of death, the court may:

1. Affirm the sentence of death;

2. Commute the sentence of death to imprisonment for life; or

3. Remand to the trial court for a new sentencing proceeding.

E. The Supreme Court may accumulate the records of all capital felony cases tried within such period of time as the court may determine. The court shall consider such records as are available as a guide in determining whether the sentence imposed in the case under review is excessive. Such records as are accumulated shall be made available to the circuit courts.

F. Sentence review shall be in addition to appeals, if taken, and review and appeal may be consolidated. The defendant and the Commonwealth shall have the right to submit briefs within time limits imposed by the court, either by rule or order, and to present oral argument.

G. The Supreme Court shall, in setting its docket, give priority to the review of cases in which the sentence of death has been imposed over other cases pending in the Court. In setting its docket, the Court shall also give priority to the consideration and disposition of petitions for writs of habeas corpus filed by prisoners held under sentence of death.

1977, c. 492, §§ 17-110.1, 17-110.2; 1983, c. 519; 1995, c. 503; 1998, c. 872.

§ 17.1-314. Executive Secretary.

The Office of Executive Secretary to the Supreme Court, to be filled by a person having the qualifications as may be prescribed by the justices of the Supreme Court, is hereby created to be the court administrator for the Commonwealth. He shall be appointed by the Supreme Court, shall hold office at the pleasure of the Court, and during his term of office shall not engage in the private practice of law. He shall receive such compensation as may be fixed by the Court. He may, with the approval of the Court, employ such persons as are necessary for the performance of the duties of his office, whose compensation shall be fixed by the Court within the limits of the amounts appropriated by law.

1952, c. 506, § 17-111.1; 1966, c. 148; 1973, c. 544; 1998, c. 872; 2005, c. 237.

§ 17.1-315. Duties of Executive Secretary.

The Executive Secretary to the Supreme Court shall have the following duties:

1. He shall be the Secretary of the Judicial Council;

2. He shall be the Secretary of the Judicial Conference;

3. He shall assist the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court in the administration of the judicial branch of the government to the end that litigation may be expedited and the administration of justice improved in the courts of the Commonwealth; and

4. He shall have such other duties as may be required of him by the Chief Justice or by the Supreme Court in the performance of the administrative functions of that Court.

1952, c. 506, § 17-111.2; 1998, c. 872.

§ 17.1-316. Printing and binding reports of Supreme Court.

When notified by the reporter of the Supreme Court that he has sufficient copy to issue a volume of the Virginia Reports, or a substantial part thereof, the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia shall order the printing of such copy. The Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia shall order sufficient copies for distribution as set forth in § 17.1-319 and for sale to the public.

All reports sold by authority of this section shall be sold at a price per volume fixed by the Executive Secretary, said price to be reasonable and sufficient to cover the cost of printing, binding, mailing and handling. The receipts from such sales shall be paid into the state treasury and credited as revenue to a special fund for use by the Supreme Court. The Executive Secretary may arrange for quantity, volume sales to book dealers or publishers for resale and on such quantity sales he may allow a reasonable discount; but the Executive Secretary may limit such sales whenever such sales would reduce the stock below a reasonable number of volumes to be held for sale to individuals for their own use.

1980, c. 615, § 17-111.3; 1983, c. 588; 1998, c. 872.

§ 17.1-317. Printing and distribution of advance sheets of such reports.

A. In addition to the copies authorized to be printed and bound under § 17.1-316, the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia may have printed, for sale as advance sheets, a number of copies of each such report sufficient to fill orders received for advance sheets. He shall fix the price for advance sheets in an amount to cover the cost of printing, mailing and handling. All the funds collected from the sale of advance sheets shall be paid into the state treasury and reported to the Comptroller for credit to the general fund of the Commonwealth.

B. The Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia may also have printed as advance sheets a number of copies of each such report sufficient to furnish one copy of each such report to the following for their use and the use of their successors in office:

1. The Clerk of the Supreme Court;

2. The reporter of the Supreme Court;

3. The judges of each court of record of this Commonwealth;

4. The Division of Legislative Services;

5. The Secretary of the Virginia State Bar;

6. Each justice of the Supreme Court;

7. The members of the State Corporation Commission;

8. Each judge of a general district court and each judge of a juvenile and domestic relations district court and such district courts as shall be designated by the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia not to exceed 250 copies;

9. The Attorney General, his deputies and assistants upon written application to the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia; and

10. Any member of the General Assembly upon written application to the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia.

1980, c. 615, § 17-111.4; 1990, c. 731; 1998, c. 872.

§ 17.1-318. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 2003, c. 280, cl. 2.

§ 17.1-319. Custody and distribution of reports of Supreme Court; Court of Appeals.

A. The Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia shall be charged with the custody, disposal and sale of the published reports of the decisions of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. One copy of each volume of the reports hereafter published shall be furnished either in print or in electronic format to each of the following for their use and the use of their successors in office:

1. The Clerk and the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court;

2. The reporter of the Supreme Court;

3. The judges and retired judges of each circuit court of this Commonwealth;

4. The clerk of each such court;

5. Each judge of a general district court and each judge of a juvenile and domestic relations district court, and such district courts as shall be designated by the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia not to exceed 250 copies;

6. The Clerk of the House of Delegates;

7. The Clerk of the Senate;

8. The Division of Legislative Services;

9. The Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission;

10. The Secretary of the Virginia State Bar;

11. The clerk of each of the district courts of the United States held in this Commonwealth for the use of the courts and the members of the bar practicing therein;

12. The attorney for the Commonwealth in counties and cities, and the county attorney in those counties which created the office of the county attorney;

13. The Attorney General, his deputies and assistants upon written application to the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia.

B. Two copies of each volume of the reports hereafter published shall be furnished to each of the justices of the Supreme Court, to each of the judges of the Court of Appeals and to each of the members of the State Corporation Commission for their use and for the use of their successors in office, except that each justice, judge or member shall be entitled to retain for personal use one copy of each volume in which appear any opinions authored by him. Eight copies of each volume of the reports hereafter published shall be furnished to each institution of higher education in the Commonwealth in which a law school approved by the American Bar Association is established. Fifteen copies of each such volume shall be placed in the State Law Library at Richmond.

C. He shall place in the Law Library at Richmond such additional copies of all of the decisions of the Supreme Court as are available, so as to make up 15 complete sets of the Virginia Reports for the justices' private offices, conference rooms and the Law Library.

1980, c. 615, § 17-111.6; 1984, c. 703; 1990, c. 739; 1998, c. 872; 2003, c. 141.

§ 17.1-320. Furnishing reports to law libraries destroyed by fire.

The Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia is authorized and directed to furnish to the law school of any institution of higher education in the Commonwealth whose law library has been destroyed by fire, out of any surplus copies on hand and available for such distribution, eight copies of each volume of the Virginia Reports, or so many thereof as may be necessary to replace copies of such volumes which have been destroyed by such fire.

Nothing in this section shall be construed to require the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia to purchase any such copies for distribution hereunder.

1980, c. 615, § 17-111.7; 1998, c. 872.

§ 17.1-321. Reporter of Court; his appointment and salary.

The Supreme Court shall have authority to contract with some suitable person to report such of its decisions as the Court shall direct, at such compensation as may be appropriated by law for the purpose, payable in monthly installments.

The Court may at any time put an end to such contract and contract with another person for performing the service, upon the same terms.

Code 1919, §§ 5879 and 5882, §§ 17-113, 17-114; 1998, c. 872.

§ 17.1-322. Duties.

The Reporter shall prepare and deliver from time to time to such printer as the Comptroller may direct manuscript reports of such decisions of the Court as the judges thereof shall direct, with an abstract of the points decided in each case and an index to the contents of the volume, a table of cases reported, a table of cases cited and a table of Virginia statutes cited and construed in the volume. The Reporter shall examine and correct the proof sheets thereof as they shall be furnished him by the printer.

Code 1919, §§ 5880, 5881, § 17-115; 1998, c. 872.

§ 17.1-323. Clerk to deliver opinions to Reporter.

In those cases which the Reporter is directed to report, copies of the reasons stated in writing, under Section 6 of Article VI of the Constitution of Virginia, shall be delivered by the clerk of the Court to the Reporter.

Code 1919, § 5883, § 17-116; 1938, p. 134; 1971, Ex. Sess., c. 1; 1998, c. 872.