(a) The Legislature finds and declares that:
(1) The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has held that a salary system for magistrates which is based upon the population that each magistrate serves does not violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution of the United States;
(2) The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has held that a salary system for magistrates which is based upon the population that each magistrate serves does not violate section thirty-nine, article VI of the Constitution of West Virginia;
(3) The Administrative Office of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia has stated that the utilization of a two-tiered salary schedule for magistrates is no longer an equitable and rational manner by which magistrates should be compensated for work performed;
(4) Organizing the two tiers of the salary schedule into one tier for magistrates serving less than seven thousand three hundred in population and a second tier for magistrates serving seven thousand three hundred or more in population is no longer rational and equitable given current statistical information relating to population and caseload; and
(5) That, by January 1, 2017, all magistrates should be compensated equally.
(b) The salary of each magistrate shall be paid by the state. Magistrates who serve fewer than seven thousand three hundred in population shall be paid annual salaries of $51,125 and magistrates who serve seven thousand three hundred or more in population shall be paid annual salaries of $57,500.
(c) For the purpose of determining the population served by each magistrate, the number of magistrates authorized for each county shall be divided into the population of each county. For the purpose of this article, the population of each county is the population as determined by the last preceding decennial census taken under the authority of the United States government.
(d) Notwithstanding any provision of this code to the contrary, the amendments made to this section during the 2013 First Extraordinary Session are effective upon passage and are retroactive to January 1, 2013.
(e) On or before July 1, 2013, the Joint Committee on Government and Finance shall request a study by the National Center for State Courts, working in conjunction with the Administrative Office of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, to review the weighted case loads in each of the magistrate courts in this state, and present recommendations as to how the present resources and personnel in the magistrate court system could be better apportioned to equitably and timely meet the collective needs of the magistrate court system in West Virginia. Based on the findings and data generated by that study, the National Center for State Courts shall make recommendations as to the equitable redistribution of personnel and resources, by temporary or permanent reassignment, to better meet the needs and weighted loads that are demonstrated to exist in the various magistrate courts in this state. This study shall be presented to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance no later than December 1, 2014, and shall include recommendations and proposed legislation resulting from such study and shall also include a plan to continue the efficient delivery of justice by the magistrate court system and the justification for equalization of pay for all magistrates. As a part of the submitted study, the plan shall consider the reassignment of magistrates or the extension of their duties and jurisdiction to include holding court or delivering services to adjacent counties with higher caseloads, as part of their regular duties, or being on call as needed to serve other needs in other adjacent counties or within the same judicial circuit.
On or before January 15, 2015, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia shall present its recommendations to the Legislature regarding how to allocate or assign a maximum of one hundred fifty- eight magistrates throughout this state to improve the magistrate process, and more equitably distribute the magistrate court resources to efficiently and effectively meet the needs of the citizens of this state.
(f) Notwithstanding any provision of this code to the contrary, beginning January 1, 2017, all magistrates shall be compensated equally and the annual salary of all magistrates shall be $57,500.
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