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Magistrate applications being taken in W.Va.

April 22, 2001

Magistrate applications being taken in W.Va.



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Any Berkeley County resident 21 years of age, who has a high school diploma or the equivalent and is looking for a job that pays $37,000 a year could become a Magistrate Court judge.

With the approval of the West Virginia Legislature and Gov. Bob Wise, Berkeley County will be getting a fifth Magistrate July 1 to handle cases that come to Magistrate Court. All criminal cases except those involving people indicted by a grand jury start at Magistrate Court, which also handles some civil and family law cases.

With the increased population and caseload, local legislators were able to make the case at the state Capitol that the court needs additional resources. The county was granted a fourth Circuit Court judge last year.

The new Magistrate will not have to have any legal experience, although Circuit Court Judge Christopher Wilkes said "previous involvement with the court system would be a plus."

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Under law, Wilkes is charged with making the appointment because he is the chief judge this year. But he will consult the other three Circuit Court judges before making any decision, he said.

"We always discuss all our major decisions," he said.

Anyone who wants the job should apply in writing to Wilkes stating their qualifications and interest in the position. He's already received letters from eight or nine people and others have called the office.

"Some have, some have not" had previous political experience, he said.

Wilkes said the decision will be made quickly.

"As soon as we are notified officially by the Supreme Court, I expect it will be within 10 days," he said. "This is not one of those things you want to sit on."

The person appointed will need time to learn the system, he said.

Meanwhile, the county is preparing to house that person. Plans are being developed to move Magistrate Carlton DeHaven to the basement of Magistrate Court at the converted John Street School. Another courtroom also will be added in the structure, bringing the number to three.

The person appointed will serve until the November 2002 election, when he or she must run to keep the job.

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