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Complaints aired about cramped courts

October 02, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - With caseloads before local magistrates rising by as much as 30 percent and courtroom space at a premium, Jefferson County Magistrate Gail Boober continued to press county officials last week for a solution to the problem.

Earlier this year, the county's three magistrates appeared before the Jefferson County Commission, complaining about lack of courtroom space and questioning commission members about how they plan to provide space for a fifth circuit judge in the Eastern Panhandle and possibly a fourth magistrate in Jefferson County.

The court annex along George Street where the magistrates work has two courtrooms, but one of those is sometimes taken by Circuit Judge Gray Silver when he comes to Jefferson County to hold court, 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 a fifth circuit judge heading to the area.

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In February, the commission decided to form a committee to study the problem.

Last Thursday, Boober appeared before the commission and said the lack of courtroom space is becoming more of a problem.

Boober said judges want magistrates to work their schedules around the dockets of the judges.

Then magistrates are "scurrying around looking for places and I don't think that's fair," Boober said.

At the same time, the caseload before magistrates has increased by 25 percent to 30 percent, Boober said.

Commissioner Dale Manuel said perhaps the county's planned renovation of the former Jefferson County Jail at the intersection of George and Liberty streets will help free up space.

"How soon is that?" Boober asked.

Commission member Jane Tabb said the county might have to consider leasing some space as a short-term solution to the space crunch.

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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