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Magistrate Pauley is off to an iffy start

Jack Pauley became chief magistrate in Kanawha County a month ago. Apparently, one of his first acts was to explore ways to reduce the hours for the magistrate court.

Instead of being open from 8 a.m. until midnight, the court would close at 10 p.m. under his plan.

"Right now I don't see a downside to cutting those two hours," Pauley told the Daily Mail's Paul Fallon.

Plenty of taxpayers do see a downside to having their access to magistrate court reduced by two hours a night.

The public is supposed to have access to magistrate court around the clock. That is one reason why the county has 10 magistrates.

A few years ago, the magistrates cut that 24-hour coverage to 16-hour coverage with a magistrate placed "on call" to cover any emergencies between midnight and 8 a.m.

At least one Kanawha Circuit judge, Duke Bloom, is opposed to further cutbacks.

"If the magistrates ended up closing earlier, the county would incur substantial increased fees for keeping people in jail," Bloom told Fallon.

That's because some people would have to spend the night in jail because they didn't get a prompt hearing that would enable them to post bond.

The proposal to reduce the number of hours that magistrate court is available to the public is a curious choice. The office exists to serve the public.

"I think it's interesting that the first thing he does as chief magistrate is to try to find a way to work less," Bloom said.

Some observers find another of Pauley's priorities interesting as well.

He wants to reverse a practice instituted to improve other officials' access to records. Bloom, who was chief judge last year, ordered that all magistrate case files be kept in the magistrate clerk's office.

Pauley wants to end that.

The magistrate's office exists to serve the public.

Instead of looking for ways to make things more convenient for employees, the chief magistrate should focus on improving service to the public.



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