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Suit over fees delayed in W.Va. court

February 14, 1998

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The copying fee fight between the Berkeley County Prosecutor's Office and the public defender's office has been delayed by legal wrangling.

Berkeley County Circuit Judge David Sanders did not rule on the case Friday. Instead, he required that the public defender's office file a motion as to the reasons behind the complaint.

"I expected this ruling all along," said Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely. "My opinion all along is this is a stupid lawsuit."

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The public defender's office wants the prosecutor's office to stop charging 25 cents a page for copies of discovery papers, such as statements and witness lists.

The public defender's office already has more than a $200 copying bill with the prosecutor's office.

Games-Neely said the public defender's office should have better things to do than bringing a suit over the copying fees.

But Public Defender Vito Mussomeli said that the prosecutor's office has not been authorized by state legislators to charge fees and that charging for copies hurts the poor while preparing their legal defenses.

"It sounds silly to a lot of people because they don't understand the law in this situation. We were hoping for a quick resolution of this case," he said.

Mussomeli said the next hearing will be Feb. 26 at 11 a.m.

Mussomeli said the Berkeley County prosecutor's office is the only one in the state to charge for copies of discovery.

He said that if his office is required to pay for copies, then he will charge the prosecutors for copies of work the defense has to turn over.

Games-Neely said that if the public defender's office has a complaint about paying for the copies, then the office should have sued the state Supreme Court, which signed the order authorizing the fees.

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