The Office of the Lincoln County Circuit Clerk is charged with keeping all records of every lawsuit filed in circuit court, whether the legal action is Criminal or Civil in nature.
A Criminal Lawsuit is brought to Circuit Court by the Prosecuting Attorney, who represents the interests of the State of West Virginia and Lincoln County. Criminal proceedings are instituted in Circuit Court by the Grand Jury returning a "true bill", or indictment, that charges an individual or company with violating a criminal law. Although a misdemeanor (minor) offense might be a lesser and includable offense within a felony (major crime) indictment, misdemeanors also can end up in Circuit Court on appeal from a conviction in Magistrate Court.
The case file, which the Circuit Clerk is required to keep, maintain and control essentially forever, is comprised of all of the indictments, pleadings, motions, subpoenas, evidence, jury instructions, verdicts and all other important information about the criminal proceeding throughout the course of the proceeding. The Circuit Clerk is the depository for all of this information and, under the Federal Freedom of Information Act and other public records laws, must make these records available to the public for inspection upon request, unless the Circuit Judge or a higher court has entered a lawful order barring public inspection of all or part of the information contained in the file.
The Circuit Clerk also keeps a record of all of the proceedings in a criminal trial, including jury selection; scheduling hearings and jury trials; and generally making sure that all of the business of the Circuit Court is carried out in a lawful, systematic and timely fashion.
Jury selection is not a duty that the Circuit Clerk takes lightly nor is it completed in a whimsical fashion. Rather, the master jury list from which a jury eventually is selected is compiled from Lincoln County voters' registration records and from the Lincoln County drivers license list furnished by the West Virginia Secretary of State. From this master list, the names are selected randomly by computer. The Circuit Clerk obtains information about each prospective juror, which the attorneys may use to determine whether to strike the juror from the pool or to let the juror serve. Generally, about 16 jurors are selected to serve on grand jury, which is the body that decides whether a person charged with a felony should be indicted and stand trial for the alleged crime. The petit jury panel usually starts out with about 40 persons. When a jury trial begins, the list of petit jurors is used to eventually sit the actual jury that hears and decides the case. First, the State and the Defense can strike potential jurors for good cause shown. Then, once the number is narrowed to 20 potential jurors, each side has a number of no-cause strikes to use to finally limit the number to 12.