Senate Bill No. 408
(By Senators Craigo, Ross, Sharpe, Helmick, Buckalew, Blatnik,
Schoonover, Deem, Kimble, Boley, Dittmar, White, Anderson, Minear
[Introduced February 15, 1996; referred to the Committee
on the Judiciary; and then to the Committee on Finance
A BILL to amend and reenact section seventeen, article one,
chapter three of the code of West Virginia, one thousand
nine hundred thirty-one, as amended; and to amend and
reenact sections one and two, article four, chapter
forty-eight-a of said code, all relating to requiring family
law masters to be elected; and requiring that all family law
masters serve full-time.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That section seventeen, article one, chapter three of the
code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as
amended, be amended and reenacted; and that sections one and two,
article four, chapter forty-eight-a of said code be amended and reenacted, all to read as follows:
CHAPTER 3. ELECTIONS.
ARTICLE 1. GENERAL PROVISIONS AND DEFINITIONS.
§3-1-17. Election of circuit judges; lawmasters; county and
district officers; magistrates.
There shall be elected, at the general election to be held
in the year one thousand nine hundred ninety-two, and in every
eighth year thereafter, one judge of the circuit court of every
judicial circuit entitled to but one judge, and one judge for
each numbered division of the judicial circuit in those judicial
circuits entitled to two or more circuit judges; and at the
general election to be held in the year one thousand nine hundred
ninety-eight, and in every fourth year thereafter, two family law
masters for Kanawha County and one family law master for every
other geographic region as designated under section four, article
four, chapter forty-eight-a of this code; and at the general
election to be held in the year one thousand nine hundred
ninety-two, and in every fourth year thereafter, a sheriff,
prosecuting attorney, surveyor of lands, and the number of
assessors prescribed by law for the county, and the number of magistrates prescribed by law for the county; and at the general
election to be held in the year one thousand nine hundred ninety,
and in every second year thereafter, a commissioner of the county
commission for each county; and at the general election to be
held in the year one thousand nine hundred ninety-two, and in
every sixth year thereafter, a clerk of the county commission
and a clerk of the circuit court for each county.
CHAPTER 48A. ENFORCEMENT OF FAMILY OBLIGATIONS.
ARTICLE 4. PROCEEDINGS BEFORE A MASTER.
§48A-4-1. Appointment of family law masters; term of office;
(a) The family law masters holding office on the effective
date of this section by virtue of appointments made under the
prior enactments of this article shall continue their service for
a term of office ending on the thirtieth day of June, one
thousand nine hundred ninety-four. Before the first day of July,
one thousand nine hundred ninety-four, the governor shall appoint
family law masters in such numbers and to serve such areas of the
state as provided for under the provisions of this article, with
terms commencing on the first day of July, one thousand nine hundred ninety-four.
and on a like date in every fourth year
thereafter, and ending on the thirtieth day of June, one thousand
nine hundred ninety-eight, and on a like date in every fourth
year thereafter Thereafter, family law masters shall be elected
in accordance with the provisions set forth in section seventeen,
article one, chapter three of this code. Upon the expiration of
his or her term, a family law master may continue to perform the
duties of the office until the governor makes the appointment, or
for sixty days after the date of the expiration of the master's
term, whichever is earlier. If a vacancy occurs in the office of
family law master, the governor shall, within thirty days after
such vacancy occurs, fill the vacancy by appointment for the
unexpired term. Provided, That if the remaining portion of the
unexpired term to be filled is less than one year, the governor
may, in his or her discretion, simultaneously appoint an
individual to the unexpired term and to the next succeeding full
(b) An individual may be reappointed to succeeding terms as
a family law master to serve in the same or a different region of the state.
(c) (b) Removal of a master during the term for which he or
she is appointed shall be as follows:
(1) Upon a recommendation by the judicial hearing board
created pursuant to the rules of procedure for the handling of
complaints against justices, judges, magistrates and family law
masters, if the supreme court of appeals shall find that a family
law master has violated the judicial code of ethics or that the
master, because of advancing years and attendant physical or
mental incapacity, should not continue to serve, the supreme
court of appeals may, in lieu of or in addition to any
disposition authorized by such rules, remove the family law
master from office.
(2) The supreme court of appeals may remove a master when
conduct of the family law master evidences incompetence,
unsatisfactory performance, misconduct, neglect of duty or
physical or mental disability.
48A-4-2. Qualifications of family law masters.
(a) No individual may be appointed to serve as a family law master unless he or she is a member in good standing of the West
Virginia state bar.
(b) No person may assume the duties of family law master
unless he or she has first attended and completed a course of
instruction in principles of family law and procedure which is
given in accordance with the supervisory rules of the supreme
court of appeals. All family law masters shall attend all
courses of continuing educational instruction as may be required
by supervisory rule of the supreme court of appeals. Failure to
attend such courses of continuing educational instruction without
good cause shall constitute a neglect of duty. These courses
shall be provided at least once every other year. Persons
attending such courses outside of the county of their residence
shall be reimbursed by the state for expenses actually incurred
in accordance with the supervisory rules of the supreme court of
A family law master may not engage in any other
business, occupation or employment inconsistent with the
expeditious, proper and impartial performance of his or her duties as a judicial officer. A full-time family law master
shall may not engage in the outside practice of law and shall
devote full time to his or her duties as a judicial officer.
Part-time family law masters who do not engage in the practice of
criminal law shall be exempt from the appointments in indigent
cases which would otherwise be required pursuant to article
twenty-one, chapter twenty-nine of this code.
(d) All family law masters and all necessary clerical and
secretarial assistants employed in the offices of family law
masters are officers or employees of the judicial branch of state
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to provide that family
law masters are elected and that they serve full time.
Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken
from the present law, and underscoring indicates new language
that would be added.