Virginia Resources

This State Guide provides an in-depth look at sources of law in Virginia.

More on Courts

The Virginia court system has three levels of courts.

The Supreme Court of Virginia

The Supreme Court of Virginia is made up of seven justices elected by the General Assembly for a renewable term of twelve years. The court has both original and appellate jurisdiction (original jurisdiction only for habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, writs of actual innocence pursuant to Virginia's Code § 19.2-327.2, and matters filed by the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission relating to judicial censure, retirement, and removal of judges). It hears appeals on a discretionary basis, except in cases involving the State Corporation Commission, the disbarment of an attorney, and review of the death penalty. Its decisions are binding on itself and on all courts below it. 


The Court of Appeals of Virginia

The Court of Appeals of Virginia is the Commonwealth's intermediate appellate court. It is a fairly new court, created in 1985. Prior to its creation, cases were appealed directly to the Supreme Court. Since the establishment of the Court of Appeals, appellate capacity has increased.* The Court of Appeals consists of eleven judges who are elected for eight year renewable terms by the General Assembly. The Court of Appeals normally sits in panels of at least three judges, although it sits en banc under certain conditions.* The Court of Appeals has original jurisdiction to issue writs of mandamus, prohibition and habeas corpus in any case over which the Court would have appellate jurisdiction, and also has original jurisdiction to issue a writ of actual innocence upon petition of a person who has been convicted of a felony upon a plea of not guilty. The Court of Appeals has appellate jurisdiction over final decisions of the Virginia Circuit and General District Courts and the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission, and over some interlocutory orders.* It must hear all appeals that it receives.


The Virginia Circuit Courts

The Virginia Circuit Courts are the highest Virginia trial courts with general jurisdiction, and the only Virginia court that holds jury trials. Circuit court judges are elected for an eight-year renewable term by the General Assembly. Jurisdiction covers most civil law and equity claims, all felonies, and appeals from the District Courts, and from administrative agencies. The circuit court system is composed of thirty-one judicial circuits with one hundred twenty separate circuit courts in the various counties and cities of the State. 

The District Courts are trial courts with limited civil and criminal jurisdiction. General District Court judges are elected for a six-year renewable term by the General Assembly. All cases are conducted by a judge, with no jury. There are two types of district courts in Virginia: the General District Courts and the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts.


Court Rules