There are 158 magistrates in West Virginia. There are at least two magistrates in every county, and ten in the largest county, Kanawha. A county-by-county map of West Virginia’s fifty-five counties with magistrate information can be found here.
Magistrates use their training and sound judgment to oversee the application and enforcement of state laws, municipal laws, and court procedures. Magistrates have jurisdiction over civil cases in which the financial amount in dispute is less than ten thousand dollars. They hear misdemeanor cases and conduct preliminary examinations in felony cases. In criminal cases they issue and record affidavits, complaints, arrest warrants, and search warrants, as well as set bail and make decisions concerning proposed plea agreements, the collection of courts costs, cash bonds, and fines.
Magistrates issue emergency protective orders in cases involving domestic violence. Immediately entering domestic violence petitions into the Domestic Violence Database and Registry is an important part of their work.
In some counties where there are no mental hygiene commissioners, the chief judge can designate a magistrate to handle all or part of probable cause involuntary hospitalization cases. Magistrates, however, cannot handle final commitment or guardianship cases. In some counties both mental hygiene commissioners and designated magistrates are appointed by the chief judge to do portions of mental hygiene work. Magistrates can enter mental hygiene orders into West Virginia’s Mental Health Registry and issue applications and temporary placement orders after hours and on weekends when needed.
Circuit courts hear appeals of magistrate court cases.
Magistrates work under the administrative supervision of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.
Magistrates run for four-year terms in nonpartisan elections. The West Virginia Constitution prohibits requiring magistrates to be lawyers, although some are. Circuit judges appoint magistrates to fill vacancies. An appointee who wishes to remain in office must run in the next election.