It has been more than two decades since Monongalia County has had five magistrate court judges, but thanks to a comprehensive court bill, HB 3332, passed by the West Virginia Legislature in the closing hours of the regular session, the county will now have six magistrates beginning with the 2024 election.
The addition of two magistrates in the county will lend some much-needed relief to the currently heavy caseload the judges are facing.
“It will open up the dockets so we won’t be having upwards of 15 cases a day. We’ll be able to do between eight and 10 a day, which will give us more time for the cases and be able to schedule on-the-fly when we need to, if something happens,” Magistrate Ron Bane explained. “Sometimes we have to have some flexibility and we haven’t had the ability to do that.”
From a citizen’s standpoint, the additional magistrates will help ensure quicker court dates and will help keep courts from getting behind.
“One of the things we always worry about here is to make sure we meet all the standards and also we meet the statutes,” Bane said. “Statutes rule us on how soon someone has to be adjudicated, because they are entitled to have a speedy trial. This will help us do that.”
While the bill gives the county six magistrates beginning in 2024, the court will see some changes much sooner than that.
Starting March 27, Tim Pocius will fill the unexpired term of former magistrate Todd Gaujot, who resigned earlier this month and agreed not to seek judicial office again following an investigation and a second admonishment by the Judicial Investigation Commission of West Virginia.
Bane said Pocius, who has formerly served as a magistrate in Mon County, was great to work with previously and will be able to take on existing caseloads due to his familiarity with the court.
A fifth magistrate, who has yet to be determined, will be able to start as early as July.
“I’m looking forward to bringing in some other colleagues to work with and see what happens,” Bane said. “Having Pocius back is going to help a lot and with the two new ones — we’ll get one in July — I have the utmost confidence that we’ll get someone appointed that will work well with us and we’ll get stuff done.”
Bane said he was truly grateful for all of the help and attention brought to state leaders by local delegates and senators.
“With thousands of bills proposed each session, getting attention for any one county is a challenge. Joe Statler made a case to legislative and court leaders though, and that spoke volumes, for which I was grateful,” he said.
Acknowledging additional efforts from state senators, Bane said, “Mike Oliverio previously helped get Monongalia County a fifth magistrate. With help from Charlie Clements, I believed our senators would try to do what they could to help.”