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Agency history
  • Scott County (Va.). Circuit Court. Agency History
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Biographical or historical data
  • Scott County, Virginia, was formed from Lee, Russell, and Washington counties in 1814 and named for War of 1812 hero Winfield Scott. Smyth County was formed from it. Located in Southwest Virginia, it adjoins Lee County on the west, Wise County on the north, Russell and Washington counties on the east, and North Carolina on the south. The county seat is Gate City.
  • The Circuit Court was authorized by the Constitution of 1851 and established by an act of the General Assembly passed in May 1852. Courts were held twice yearly in each county, presided over by 21 judges who rode circuits in the area of their jurisdiction. The records were filed with County Court records. These courts were granted original jurisdiction concurrrent with that of the County Courts, as well as appellate jurisdiction in all civil cases of more than fifty dollars and criminal cases not "expressly cognizable in some other court," including those involving loss of life. Beginning in 1873 they had exclusive jurisdiction over chancery cases. The Constitution of 1902 made no provision for the County Courts, and original jurisdiction for almost all matters was transferred to the Circuit Courts beginning 1 February 1904. Likewise probate authority was transferred entirely to the Circuit Courts. On 15 March 1904 responsibility for recordation of deeds was also transferred to the Circuit Courts. The Circuit Court thus became the sole court of record for Virginia localities and became the repository of all local public records.
  • Prior to the establishment of the Circuit Court, the Circuit Superior Courts of Law and Chancery, established in 1831, were the upper courts on the local level. Sessions were held twice a year in each county, presided over by a General Court judge. The counties were grouped into districts for the convenience of the judge. This court's authority was the same as that of its predecessors, the Superior Courts of Law and the Superior Courts of Chancery. The Superior Court of Law was created in 1808. It met twice a year in each county, presided over by a circuit-riding General Court judge. Records were filed with the County Court. Sometimes this court was called Circuit Court, Circuit Court of Law, or Circuit Superior Court. The District Courts were created by act of the General Assembly in 1788 and existed until their replacement by the Superior Court of Law in 1808. Created to alleviate the burden of increasing cases before the General Court, they met biannually in eighteen districts around the state and were presided over by two General Court judges. The records were kept locally by the court.
  • The Superior Courts of Chancery were created in 1802 to handle chancery matters initially handled by the High Court of Chancery. The state was divided into three chancery districts and cases from the counties composing the district were tried in a fixed location within each district. The records were kept in that location. Five additional districts were created before the court was supplanted by local Circuit Superior Courts of Law and Chancery in 1831. This court was sometimes called District Court of Chancery. The High Court of Chancery was created by the General Assembly in 1777 and replaced in 1802. It handled chancery matters, meeting at the Capitol and had jurisdiction over the whole state. As such it is not strictly a local court, but was the predecessor to superior local courts that were created with the expansion and growth of the state.
  • The County Court was the original colonial court of adjudication and recordation, and it was the principal tribunal for the administration of local justice. It was comprised of justices and a clerk. The justices were appointed and usually, especially in the colonial period, were members of the leading families within each county. The colonial county court tended to be a self-perpetuating body, new members often being sons or close relations of retiring or deceased members. The individual justices could act on small claims matters as well as criminal matters where imminent bodily harm was a possibility, there being an appeal to the full County Court, which met monthly. The County Court had authority over ophan's estates and probate. The clerk's responsibility was the recordation of legal matters handled by the court. Deeds, wills, fiduciary matters, as well as legal decisions were recorded by the clerk as part of his job, and the volumes and supporting papers for the recorded material were maintained by the clerk in his office as part of his responsibility. As previously stated, this court ceased to exist in 1904 and the recordation function was transferred to the circuit court.
Cataloging source
Agency history
This is not a record. It is background information about Scott County and its court system
  • The Library of Virginia

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      800 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA, 23219, US
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