H. B. 4009
(By Delegate Hines)
[Passed March 11, 2000; in effect July 1, 2000.]
AN ACT to amend and reenact section two, article one, chapter
fifty of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine
hundred thirty-one, as amended; and to amend and reenact
section four, article three of said chapter, all relating
to magistrate courts; providing for the number of
magistrates; eliminating the formula for determining the
number and location of magistrates for elections held after
the year two thousand; providing for the disposition of
court costs collected in magistrate courts; continuing and
increasing allowable deposits in magistrate court funds to
be used to defray expenses incurred by counties for
providing services to magistrate courts; and allowing court
costs collected in excess of limitations on deposits in
magistrate court funds to be placed in a newly created
surplus account for distribution to counties with underfunded magistrate court funds.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That section two, article one, chapter fifty of the code of
West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended,
be amended and reenacted; and that section four, article three
of said chapter be amended and reenacted, all to read as
ARTICLE 1. COURTS AND OFFICERS.
§50-1-2. Number of magistrates.
(a) The number of magistrates to be elected in each county
of this state shall be determined in accordance with the
provisions of this section.
(b) The number of magistrates serving in each county of the
state shall comport with the numbers certified by the supreme
court of appeals to the ballot commissioners of each county on
or before the thirty-first day of January, two thousand, for
purposes of the primary and general elections to be held in the
year two thousand.
(c) (1) The Legislature finds that there exists among the
various counties large and unwarranted disparities of caseload
between the magistrate courts. The Legislature further finds
that the disparity causes an inequity with regard to magistrate
court resources and the ability of such courts to effectively
meet the needs of the citizens of this state who need to avail themselves of this judicial resource. The Legislature further
finds that the system currently in place for allocating
magistrate court resources which has been in effect since the
year one thousand nine hundred ninety-one produces certain
anomalies which cause quadrennial reallocation of magistrate
resources based upon said anomalies which in turn cause a waste
of funds, inequitable workloads, unnecessary shifting of
resources and confusion among the various counties.
(2) The office of legislative services is hereby directed
to undertake a comprehensive study of the magistrate courts of
the various counties to determine, among other things, the work
performed by various personnel in the magistrate court system,
how work time is spent by said employees and to report its
findings no later than the tenth day of December, two thousand
one, to the joint standing committee on the judiciary.
(3) The division of criminal justice and highway safety
shall, in conjunction with the administrative office of the West
Virginia supreme court of appeals, compile for consideration by
the Legislature statistical information and documentation
regarding caseloads, cases handled per year per magistrate,
cases per county, cases per circuit and provide to the president
of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Delegates no later
than the first day of the regular session of the Legislature,
two thousand two, their recommendations for improving the magistrate process, better utilization of court resources,
including but not limited to, categorizing the various types of
cases heard in magistrate court and developing a new weighted
formula to evaluate types of cases by the amount of time
necessary to bring said cases to a resolution.
ARTICLE 3. COSTS, FINES AND RECORDS.
§50-3-4. Disposition of costs; magistrate court fund.
(a) All costs collected in magistrate courts in a civil
proceeding pursuant to the provisions of section one of this
article, and all costs collected in magistrate courts in a
criminal proceeding pursuant to the provisions of section two of
this article, shall be submitted on or before the tenth day of
the month following the month of their collection to the
magistrate court clerk or, if there is no magistrate court
clerk, to the clerk of the circuit court along with such
information as may be required by the rules of the supreme court
of appeals and by the rules of the chief inspector of public
(b) (1) The special county fund known as the magistrate
court fund established in each county by chapter thirty-three,
Acts of the Legislature, regular session, one thousand nine
hundred seventy-six, as amended and reenacted in subsequent Acts
of the Legislature, is hereby continued. The moneys credited
to the fund may be used solely for the purposes provided in this section.
(2) The magistrate court clerk of each county shall pay the
sum of ten dollars collected by magistrates in each civil and
criminal proceeding into the magistrate court fund during each
fiscal year until there is paid a sum equal to fifteen thousand
dollars multiplied by the number of magistrates authorized for
(3) A county may, in accordance with the supervisory rules
of the supreme court of appeals, appropriate and spend from the
fund such sums as are necessary to defray the expenses of
providing services to magistrate courts.
(c)(1) There is hereby created in the state treasury a
special escrow account designated as the "magistrate court
surplus account." The moneys credited to the account may be
used solely for the purposes provided in this subsection.
(2) Beginning on the first day of July, two thousand, all
costs collected during a fiscal year in excess of the sum
specified in subdivision (2), subsection (b) of this section
shall be deposited in the magistrate court surplus account in
the state treasury.
(3) Beginning on the first day of September, two thousand
one, and on the first day of September of each year thereafter,
in accordance with the supervisory rules of the supreme court of
appeals, funds from the magistrate court surplus account deposited therein as excess costs collected in the prior fiscal
year pursuant to the provisions of subdivision (2) of this
subsection shall be disbursed as a supplement to any county
magistrate court fund which generated less than fifteen thousand
dollars per magistrate in the prior fiscal year in accordance
with the provisions of this subsection.
(4) The amount disbursed to a county magistrate court fund
from the magistrate court surplus account, when combined with
the court costs generated by the magistrate court fund of the
county in the prior fiscal year, may not exceed fifteen thousand
dollars per magistrate.
(5) The disbursements described in subdivision (3) of this
subsection shall be made as follows:
(A) There shall be distributed to each county magistrate
court fund that generated less than nine thousand dollars in the
prior fiscal year the sum of nine thousand dollars less the
amount of court costs generated by the county magistrate court
fund in the prior fiscal year. To the extent that the funds
available for this disbursement are insufficient to fully fund
this disbursement, the funds available shall be disbursed to
these counties on a pro rata basis.
(B) Any funds that remain available for disbursement after
disbursements made pursuant to paragraph (A) of this subdivision
shall be disbursed in equal shares to each county magistrate court fund that generated less than fifteen thousand dollars per
magistrate in the prior fiscal year. The shares to be disbursed
to each county magistrate court fund are to be equal to the
number of magistrates in the county. Any disbursement made
under this paragraph shall be subject to the limitations
specified in subdivision (4) of this subsection.
(6) Any funds that remain available in the magistrate court
surplus account after the disbursements have been made pursuant
to the provisions of paragraphs (A) and (B), subdivision (5) of
this subsection shall be deposited by the state treasurer into
the general revenue fund of the state.