Panhandle judges will rotate duties

November 18, 1996


Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Eastern Panhandle's three Circuit Court judges will switch seats in January under a rotation schedule that was set up four years ago when a third judge was added to the 23rd Circuit.

The three judges decided to rotate seats every two years to make sure the workload was evenly distributed among them, according to Judge David Sanders, who is now the chief judge for the 23rd Circuit covering Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties.

The judges also wanted to rotate from county to county periodically since voters from all three counties select the three judges, Sanders said.


"It really is a circuit now. I think when we move, we experience all the circuit," said Sanders.

A third judge was added to the 23rd Circuit in 1992 to help handle the district's growing caseload. Berkeley County officials converted part of the old One Valley Bank building beside the Berkeley County Courthouse to make room for the third judge's seat.

Before the new judge position was added, the judge in Charles Town used to cover Jefferson and Morgan counties and the judge in Martinsburg only handled Berkeley County.

When the third judge was added, the judges decided to have one seat handle 60 percent of Berkeley County's caseload, the second seat handle 40 percent of Berkeley County's caseload and all of Morgan County's caseload and the third seat handle all of Jefferson County's work, according to Sanders.

The first two years, Sanders handled the main Berkeley County seat, Christopher Wilkes presided over the Berkeley and Morgan position and Thomas W. Steptoe served the Jefferson County seat.

In 1994, Sanders went to Jefferson County, Steptoe took the Berkeley and Morgan County seat and Wilkes took the main Berkeley County seat.

Starting Jan. 1, Steptoe will move to the main Berkeley County seat, Sanders will take over the Morgan and Berkeley seat and Wilkes will come to Jefferson County, Sanders said.

Sanders said the caseload has decreased in the local circuit, which he attributed to the three judges' determination to move cases through the system more quickly.

The Herald-Mail Articles