Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands
in 1984 authorized the establishment of an appellate court for the Virgin Islands to be created by the Legislature in its
discretion. In 2004 the Legislature, acting on such Congressional authority,
established the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands as the highest court of the
Virgin Islands. The Court assumed its
appellate jurisdiction on January 29, 2007. The court presently consists of a
chief justice and two associate justices. The court is assisted by the service
of active judges of the Superior Court and of retired judges of courts of
record of the Virgin Islands who serve as
Designated Justices to fill vacancies on the court caused by disqualifications
or other absences.
Virgin Islands Supreme Court is the equivalent of a state supreme court. As the
highest court for the Virgin Islands, the Supreme Court is authorized to review
all final orders, judgments and specified interlocutory orders of the Superior
Court of the Virgin Islands. Cases before the court are determined by
three justices and a decision by two justices is required for a decision of the
Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction over members of the legal profession
and of admissions to the bar. The Court oversees the established organized
integrated Virgin Islands Bar Association and has the power to approve the
rules regarding attorney discipline. The Court also approves the rules
regarding attorney conduct and has established rules governing the admission of
members of the Virgin Islands Bar Virgin Islands Bar; and the discipline of
attorneys and the practice of law in the Virgin Islands.
Brief History Of The Virgin Islands
of the Virgin Islands is now on the brink of
becoming a twenty-first century court system, with a framework that was
established almost a century ago. Having
evolved from three Police Courts in the cities of Frederiksted,
Christiansted, and Charlotte Amalie, the current system boasts the Superior
Court of the Virgin Islands in each judicial district of St. Thomas/St. John
and St. Croix and now, a Supreme Court of the U.S. Virgin Islands that will be
tasked with hearing the appeals from the Superior Court territory-wide.
The beginnings of
the Virgin Islands judiciary were rooted in the 1921 Codes of St. Thomas and St. John and St. Croix
which established the police courts.
On July 22, 1954,
the Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands
was amended and approved. Section 21 of that Act vested judicial power in a
court of record called the District Court of the Virgin
Islands and in any lower courts established by local law. The
three Police Courts were then abolished and two municipal courts were
established: one for St. Thomas and St. John and one for St. Croix.
After a decade of
this judicial structure, the make-up of the local judiciary matured yet again.
On March 1, 1965, the two municipal courts were combined into a single court
called the Municipal Court of the Virgin Islands.
On September 9,
1976, the Legislature of the Virgin Islands established the forerunner of
today's Superior Court of the Virgin Islands
in accordance with Act. No. 3876 (§ 5, Sess. L. 1976, p. 17.) The Municipal Court of the Virgin Islands'
name was changed to the Territorial Court of the Virgin
Islands. Almost three decades later, the Territorial Court gained a substantial
amount of judicial autonomy. This was authorized by the 1984 amendments to the
Revised Organic Act of 1954 and triggered by local enactments by the
Legislature as well as the Governor of the Virgin Islands.
On October 1,
1991, the Territorial Court
obtained jurisdiction over all local civil actions in accordance with 4 V.I.
Code Ann. § 76(a). Effective January 1, 1994, pursuant to Act 5890, the
Legislature of the Virgin Islands granted
original jurisdiction in all criminal matters to the Territorial Court.
On October 29,
2004, Act No. 6687 established a Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands and
officially changed the name of the Territorial Court of the Virgin Islands to
the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands.
On July 19, 2006,
Governor Charles W. Turnbull, Ph.D nominated the Honorable Rhys S. Hodge,
Honorable Maria M. Cabret and Honorable Ive Arlington Swan, as the first three
justices of the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands
and designated the Honorable Rhys S. Hodge as the first Chief Justice. On
October 27, 2006, the Twenty-Sixth Legislature of the Virgin Islands
unanimously confirmed the three legal stalwarts, setting a monumental precedent
in Virgin Islands history.
of the first Justices of the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands occurred on
December 18, 2006, and not only made an indelible
mark in the history of the Virgin Islands, but complements the progressive
framework of the local judiciary that was established more than half a century
The Virgin Islands' Judiciary has now joined the other states
and territories of the union with a judicial structure that speaks to its own
progressive autonomy. Its current status
is due in no small measure to the tireless efforts of the governors, delegates,
and law makers of this territory, and the dedicated persistence of the
territory's esteemed jurists, both past and present, whose commitment to the
administration of justice is only paralleled by their commitment to the people
of the Virgin Islands.
On January 29,
2007, the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands officially
assumed appellate jurisdiction over all appeals in the Virgin
Islands. In so doing the Supreme Court dislodged all appellate
jurisdiction from the Appellate Division of the District Court, which now will
retain appellate jurisdiction to conclude the cases filed prior to January 29,