Chief Justice Joseph P. Albright

Thanks to each of you who have made my short time as Chief Justice a wonderful experience. It has been a distinct pleasure to work and visit with so many of you – talented court employees, colleagues on the bench throughout the State, members of the Bar and our State's citizens. It has been truly an honor to serve as Chief Justice, to speak in so many parts of our State of the good work the judicial branch does in every county and in every court – magistrate, family, circuit and supreme court – by colleagues, fellow employees, and members of the Bar.

On the one hand, I am very grateful that the Legislature and the Governor bit the bullet and made judges' and magistrates' salaries competitive with those in other states. The hard work of judges and magistrates and a number of lawyers from around the State contributed mightily to this happy result. On the other hand, I deeply regret that each of the other workers in our judicial system – save a few exceptions – did not receive a raise this year. It was my earnest desire that each employee would have received no less than the $900 raise accorded other state employees and, preferably, the larger raise of at least $1350 given by the Legislature to certain classes of employees. I assure you that I will continue to work toward those goals in the coming months.

I want to mention just a few of the new developments during the year. Mental health and drug court diversion programs are now operating in several counties. Another grant has been awarded for the creation of a drug court in Mercer County. We have also seen community day-report centers opened in more and more counties. The West Virginia State Bar asked for an increase in their dues, in part to help fund legal assistance in civil cases for low-income citizens, and members of the Bar have undertaken a massive fund raising program to supplement the funds available for providing such legal assistance to still more needy citizens. The Court continues to supplement these efforts with free Legal Research Centers on line and at ten various locations around the State. We continue to improve the Court's web site at www.state.wv.us/wvsca and make other improvements in the court system's technology programs. Finally, you will see shortly some improvements in our classically beautiful courtroom as the chairs and benches are refurbished and some additional lighting installed in the hallway adjoining the courtroom.

I give special thanks to the judicial officers and employees for the marvelous job you do in providing top quality services to our citizens who have some reason to utilize the court system. I especially appreciate the efforts of those who strive every day to maintain a spirit of fairness in the operation of the judicial system, cultivating its devotion to even-handed justice for all. Similarly, I thank the members of the Bar and their employees, who strive daily to make our legal system work.

As I prepare to pass the special chores and joys of being the Chief along to another Justice, I look to the future with hope. I believe West Virginia has a very well structured judicial system. I believe we are capable of efficiently meeting our citizens' rightful expectation of a system dedicated to fair, independent, humane, and civilized justice. And, I believe we have achieved that capability because of the dedicated service of the court system's nearly 1200 employees and the energy of the Bar and their employees. As we wind up the year 2005, I extend to each of you my thanks and express my admiration for your contributions to our goals. Have Happy Holidays with family, friends and colleagues.

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

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