BY SPIKE MAYNARD

CHARLESTON -- As I begin my third term as Chief Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court, I would like to thank outgoing Chief Justice Robin Davis for her hard work, especially on behalf of West Virginia's children during the last two years, and for her support in making the transition between Chiefs a smooth one.

As you know, Justice Davis in her tenure as Chief focused on improving the way the court system handles abuse and neglect cases. I have asked her to continue that work, and she has agreed. Her efforts in securing grants and cooperating with the work of the Department of Health and Human Resources has been phenomenal. It would be a shame to impede it or slow it down. Anyone who knows Justice Davis knows when she does a job, she does it extremely well. I will support her in any way I can.

During the next year, I also will focus on two other areas, improving technology and getting the court system ready to welcome ten new family court judges. The Legislature approved the addition of the judges in 2007 and voters will elect them in November. I will make sure when those judges take office, they have actual offices to go to, courtrooms to hold court in, computers to use and staffs to help them work.

The court system's Unified Judicial Application computer system will be installed in magistrate courts statewide during the next year, vastly improving public safety and giving legislative and judicial policymakers more complete and more accurate information on which to base their decisions. At the Supreme Court, we plan to improve our Web site in 2008 with a new look and more information about the state court system. In April the Supreme Court Administrative Office will take over direct data collection from circuit courts and magistrate courts around the state, eliminating the Statistical Analysis Center as a middleman. That also will give us more accurate data, more quickly.

Also in 2008, the number of Teen Courts and Drug Treatment Courts operating in West Virginia is likely to expand, thanks to the hard work of local court and county officials and employees in the Supreme Court Administrative Office.

The Supreme Court this year also will continue our efforts to educate the public about the court system. We have begun filming a short documentary about the Supreme Court Chamber and the state court system that can be shown in schools, to visitors at the Court, and perhaps on public television. We plan to work this year with the State Bar and the Department of Education on a mock trial program for middle schools. And our LAWS program for high school students, in which students watch Supreme Court arguments live in their home county courthouse, will be held April 15 in Mercer County.

I look forward to writing about these programs and others more in-depth as my year as chief progresses. As I was when I served as chief in 2000 and 2004, I am honored to be the Chief Justice. It's a privilege I never imagined I would have when I was a little boy growing up in the West End of Williamson.

Maynard is Chief Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

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