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Study says W.Va. can cut number of magistrates

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A study by the National Center for State Courts says that West Virginia can reduce its number of magistrates by sharing magistrates across county lines and using video-conferencing when possible.

The study was based on workload instead of population in each county, and also on the types of cases which take more time than others. For example, domestic violence orders are more time-intensive than traffic violations.

Cynthia Lee, a research assistant with the Center told a joint interim legislative committee on the judiciary Tuesday that the process was “driven” by magistrates and their assistants, who participated in the study at nearly 100 percent.

The time study, she said, gives a description of “what is” happening in magistrate courts, but is not necessarily “what should be” in terms of the time magistrates and their staffs should be spending.

Lee said the efficiency time survey taken by 63 percent of the state’s magistrates showed that they believe they have enough time to spend on cases, but that after hours and on-call hours are a “very important” part of their work.

The Center proposed three plans:

• The county-based plan would largely mirror the current system of magistrates serving exclusively in the counties where they are elected; however, the citizen judges could be assigned to temporary service elsewhere by the chief circuit judge.

The new plan would differ in that magistrates would be allocated to counties based on workload…

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