Magistrates say they're running out of space

February 17, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The three Jefferson County magistrates complained to the Jefferson County Commission about a lack of courtroom space and questioned how local government plans to provide space for a fifth circuit judge and possibly a fourth magistrate in Jefferson County.

The court annex along George Street where the magistrates work has two courtrooms, but one is sometimes taken by Circuit Judge Grey Silver when he comes to Jefferson County to hold court, Magistrate Gail Boober said.

When that happens, the magistrates say they have to find other places to hold court.

Boober said the issue is being complicated by the likelihood that a fifth circuit judge position will be created in the Eastern Panhandle and that a fourth magistrate position could be created in Jefferson County.


"What happens then? Will we have any courtrooms left? We're outraged," Boober said.

Magistrate Bill Senseney said magistrate court cases are scheduled weeks and months in advance. When a judge comes to Jefferson County and uses one of the magistrate courtrooms, magistrates have to "scramble," Senseney said.

Magistrate Mary Paul Rissler said magistrates have had to "butt heads with circuit judges."

Commission President Greg Corliss admitted that the space crunch facing the magistrates is a "serious problem" and suggested that a committee be formed to study the situation. The commission later decided to form the committee and include commission members Dale Manuel and Rusty Morgan as part of the group.

The commission has been studying long-term space needs of county government.

In the short term, Manuel and Commission member Jim Surkamp discussed the possibility of allowing court officials to use the commission meeting room in the Jefferson County Courthouse as an extra courtroom.

Magistrates said that would be tough to do, considering the people, equipment and court security which would have to be shuffled back and forth across the street between the courthouse and the magistrate court building.

The magistrates, the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney's office and other court offices are in the magistrate building, a $3.5 million facility that opened in 2000.

Within two years of its opening, magistrates were running out of space.

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