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Study Recommends Regional Magistrate Court System

Liz McCormick
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Lawmakers were presented the final recommendations Tuesday from a national group that’s been studying the state’s magistrate court system for years.

The National Center for State Courts began the study in 2013 after lawmakers approved a pay increase for a small group of magistrates across the state. The study is focused on realigning the system so the number of magistrates in each county is based on the time spent on cases instead of the county’s population.

Cynthia Lee with the NCSC told members of the Joint Finance and Joint Judiciary Committees the time portion of casework is much more important to understanding what magistrates do than the number of cases they see. For example, she said a domestic violence case takes much longer to resolve than a traffic ticket.

That’s why the NCSC is suggesting the state realign magistrates based on what’s called a weighted workload system instead of the population based approach West Virginia takes now.

They also recommend the state change from a county based system to a more regional approach which would allow the sharing of magistrates across county lines.

Riley Barb, President of the state magistrates association, asked lawmakers to keep in mind the infrastructure challenges facing the state.

He said magistrates are supposed to provide local access to justice and lessening the number of them could make that more difficult in rural areas.

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