CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Twelve candidates for Kanawha County magistrate discussed with Gazette editors Thursday what they like and dislike about procedural changes imposed on the court six months ago.
In March, Chief Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom announced the construction of a fifth courtroom and changes to how magistrate hearings are scheduled. The changes took scheduling out of the magistrates' hands to streamline the court's hearing process and alleviated some of their workload, Bloom said.
The nine Democratic incumbent candidates agreed the additional courtroom has improved the bottleneck of cases but disagreed with the scheduling changes. They said they feel micromanaged by the higher court and say they have no control over what cases they hear in a given day.
Three newcomers, Democrats Brent Hall and Republicans John Jarman and Michael Sisson, said they had heard about some of these complaints and suggested ways to improve the systems.
Incumbent Tim Halloran said he wants control over his dockets again.
"You used to be able to see we were getting a lot of [driving under the influence] charges and you could schedule just a morning to clear up some of those," he said. "But that was taken away earlier this year."
Incumbent Jack Pauley agreed and called the new system "a disaster."
"The chief judge has taken over to micromanage the magistrates," Pauley said.
The other incumbents agreed they'd like to go back to the old system if they were re-elected.
The additional courtroom has eliminated any wait time, said incumbent Julie Yeager. The magistrates are mostly waiting now because the process has caught up to speed, she said.
Incumbent Paris Workman said a lot of the wait time was on prosecutors to secure a witness or a perpetrator to figure out their representation.
Yeager also lauded a decision to place juvenile cases under Chief Magistrate Traci Carper-Strickland. Cases involving Domestic Violence Petitions are now under the Kanawha County Family Court umbrella, she added.