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Nine individuals seek new judgeship on 23rd Judicial Circuit

August 12, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Nine individuals formally have asked to be considered for the newly created judgeship in the Eastern Panhandle's 23rd Judicial Circuit, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin's general counsel said Friday.

"We are going to proceed as quickly as we can to get someone appointed," Carte Goodwin said.

State lawmakers passed legislation this year to allow the governor to add a fifth judge for Berkeley, Morgan and Jefferson counties as early as Aug. 1. As chair of an advisory committee formed to help Manchin with the decision, Goodwin said he expects to schedule candidate interviews in the next three to four weeks, and the appointment to follow soon afterward.

The other advisory committee members are attorneys Stephen B. Farmer of Charleston, Clarence E. Martin III of Martinsburg, Charles F. Printz Jr., of Shepherdstown, and Robert D. Fisher of Ripley. West Virginia University College of Law dean John W. Fisher II and Martinsburg business leader Diane Dailey also are on the panel.

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"It's something we want to be careful with and take our time to pick the right person," said Goodwin, noting about 60 percent of the state's current circuit judges are gubernatorial appointees.

"I don't know what I would be thinking if we didn't have (another judge) on the way," said Gray Silver III, who defeated David A. Camilletti in the 2000 election for an eight-year term. "I believe any of my colleagues will tell you their (dockets are) packed."

To expedite cases, Silver said he has scheduled hearings as early as 7:30 a.m., and noted that proceedings often continue through the lunch hour.

"Obviously, the sooner we can get someone in place, the better," Silver said.

Exactly where the fifth judge will set up shop will not be determined until after Manchin decides who to appoint to the bench and all five judges confer on how to apportion the circuit's increasingly heavy caseload, Silver said.

Since taking office, Silver has operated out of "temporary" facilities in Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties, including the U.S. District Courthouse in Martinsburg, where Judge W. Craig Broadwater presides.

"I know (Broadwater) must have changed his schedule more than once" for me, Silver said of proceedings he has held there.

In the last six years, Silver also has acted as the visiting judge for Morgan County and had an office in the county's courthouse, which was destroyed by fire this week. Silver lost his robe, lawbooks and some other personal items in the blaze.

Silver also was a visiting judge for proceedings in Jefferson County, where he borrowed magistrate court space for hearings and an office.

Silver, along with judges Christopher C. Wilkes and David H. Sanders, is expected to hold court at the Berkeley County Judicial Center when it opens in October. That will free up Sanders' courtroom and office in the Berkeley County Courthouse for possible use by the fifth judge, Silver said.

"It is an option, and we have discussed that among ourselves," Silver said.

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