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23rd Judicial Circuit judge backs away from night court proposal

Judge John C. Yoder plans to wait a few months to see if changes alleviate caseload

August 27, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com
  • Yoder
Yoder

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A 23rd Judicial Circuit judge has backed away from his plan to hold night court after personnel changes were made by the Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney's office and the state Supreme Court denied his request to help pay for the added cost.

"The Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney's office has made personnel changes that I am hopeful will partially alleviate or eliminate the pressures that caused me to ask to hold cases at night," Judge John C. Yoder said last week. "I think it makes sense for me to wait a couple months to see how those changes work before I ask the Supreme Court for help. Hopefully, those changes will eliminate the problem."

Yoder in March had asked the Supreme Court to assign a judge to hear Lawyer v. Morgan County War Memorial Hospital, a medical malpractice case. He cited data that indicates he has had the heaviest caseload among the five judges that preside in the circuit, which is comprised of Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties.

Yoder then asked the Supreme Court to pay for a court reporter so he could hold night court because of the apparent scheduling conflict between certain child abuse and neglect cases and the jury trial for the medical malpractice case.    

In response to Yoder's request, Steven D. Canterbury, administrative director of the Supreme Court, offered two alternatives to assist Yoder, saying in an Aug. 5 letter that the judge's request was "premature."

"We can either assign a staff member to review your office administrative and management processes or the Supreme Court can assign a mentor judge to you to assist you in the area of judicial efficiency," Canterbury said in the letter.

In his letter, Yoder said the weighted average of his caseload currently is 1.8 times greater than the average circuit judge in the state and also considerably higher than the other four judges in the Eastern Panhandle.

Yoder had said a 10-day deadline for holding a preliminary hearing in abuse and neglect cases also is a complicating factor with his caseload.

If not at the top statewide, Canterbury previously acknowledged the ratio of population per judge in the Eastern Panhandle is close to the top.

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