The administration of justice and the proper management of a court system are among the most important functions of a civil society. The state of West Virginia has a stellar record of providing an efficient and cost-effective judicial branch of government. In fact, West Virginia is recognized throughout America for the relatively low cost of operating our courts.
While it is commendable to manage the judicial branch of government in a low-cost manner, it is likewise imperative that we assure justice is administered with timely and thoughtful procedures. To this end, state government must provide that a sufficient number of judges are assigned to each jurisdiction in order to adequately address the caseload. When the number of legal cases exceeds the workload capacity of an assigned judge, it necessarily follows that justice is delayed and timelines are elongated.
The 5th Judicial Circuit is comprised of Jackson, Mason, Roane, and Calhoun counties and covers a massive 1,684 square miles. Currently, the circuit is assigned two judges. In these important positions, we are very fortunate to have elected and to be served by The Honorable Judge Evans and The Honorable Judge Nibert. When accounting for caseloads as well as long drive times, these two judges are the busiest in the state of West Virginia! Therefore, I am supporting a bill to add a judge to the exceptionally busy and geographically dispersed 5th judicial circuit. We can no longer expect our judges to carry the highest workload in the state. In fact, even with the addition of a judge, the 5th judicial circuit will still be in the upper tier for caseloads and drive times per judge.
There are ample and widespread reasons to support this proposal. The proliferation of drug abuse in our counties continues to drive a growing caseload. Effective enforcement of truancy cases also adds to the court docket. An additional judge will effectively reduce the cost incurred by each county for holding defendants in a regional jail while awaiting trial. Finally, a reduction in driving times results in a more effective utilization of valuable judicial time.
If you have any questions regarding this or other bills, please do not hesitate to contact me.