CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County court officials are building a new magistrate courtroom and adjusting the hours for the county's 10 magistrates in an attempt to streamline the hearing process.
Kanawha County Chief Judge Duke Bloom announced the changes on Monday. Bloom said the Kanawha County Commission has agreed to pay for a new courtroom just off of the lobby in the judicial annex, while the Supreme Court has agreed to furnish and equip the courtroom.
The extra courtroom, plus additional courtroom hours for magistrates, should help ease the bottleneck of cases in magistrate court, which often sees crowds of people waiting in the lobby to be heard.
Magistrates' current work rotation has them working four weeks in the courtroom, with a fifth week outside of the courtroom to catch up on paperwork and other tasks. The new rotation will see magistrates in the courtroom every week.
Bloom also said all magistrate schedules will be managed from the magistrate clerk's office, helping ensure an even caseload. "It will work more smoothly and be very efficient," Bloom said.
Magistrates will still work the same number of hours, but will spend more time on the bench under the new system.
Canterbury said the changes were needed in the most populous county in the state, which also has a large number of imported crime due to Charleston's location at the intersection of several major highway systems.
Kanawha County's 10 magistrates are the most of any county in the state. Cabell County is next with seven. Berkeley, Harrison, Mercer and Raleigh counties each have five.
Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants said about 20,000 cases a year go through Magistrate Court. Adding a courtroom and spreading the cases out will mean fewer cases per hour for prosecutors, he said.
Several magistrates attended Monday's announcement. "If you can serve people better, I say go for it," said Magistrate Kim Aaron.
Reach Rusty Marks at rustyma...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.