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Jefferson County's chief magistrate wants more room for courts

April 12, 2002|BY DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County's newest court complex is only 2 years old and court officials are already running out of room, the county's chief magistrate said Thursday.

Chief Magistrate Gail Boober was scrambling to find a place to hold court Thursday after Berkeley County Circuit Judge David Sanders took over one of the courtrooms in the new court complex to hear a case.

Boober told the Jefferson County Commission Thursday she considered holding court in either the county meeting room on West Washington Street or the county commission chambers in the courthouse but both were being used Thursday morning.

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She finally decided to hold court in a jury room in the new court complex.

"We're out of room already. At this point we're not sure what to do," Boober said.

The new $2 million court complex across from the Jefferson County Courthouse was built to replace an outdated, cramped magistrate court building that used to be located at George and Congress streets.

At the old magistrate court building, toilets could be heard flushing during hearings and people involved in disagreements often had to stand face-to-face because there was no room to separate them.

Because magistrate court is considered the lowest court, magistrates are the ones forced to scramble to find space when another circuit judge comes in to hear a case, Boober said.

Jefferson County Commission President James K. Ruland said the commissioners were considering constructing new court facilities where the old county jail is located, but that is being delayed over a court appeal.

The commissioners want to tear down the jail and erect court offices.

Local residents Carol Gallant and Jim Whipple believe the jail should be saved because of its historical significance, namely a treason trial that was held at the old courthouse complex in 1922 for a United Mine Workers official.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr. ruled the commission could tear down the jail, but Gallant and Whipple appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court.

The high court is expected to hear the appeal in June, the commissioners said Thursday.

"At this stage, our hands are tied," Ruland told Boober.

The new court complex has two courtrooms for the three magistrates. Magistrate Mary Paul Rissler was already using one of the courtrooms Thursday while Sanders used the second one.

There is a hearing room for a family law master, a position that was part time when the court building opened. That position has since become full time.

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