MARTINSBURG -- Four of West Virginia's five Supreme Court justices will attend the grand opening Friday of the Berkeley County Judicial Center at 2 p.m. Friday.

Justices Larry V. Starcher, Elliott E. "Spike" Maynard, Joseph P. Albright, and Brent Benjamin will participate in the ceremony.

"I regret that I will not be able to attend the grand opening because of other commitments, but I want to thank the Berkeley County Commission for its hard work to provide better, more modern working space for judicial officers and court system employees," Supreme Court Justice Robin Jean Davis said in a news release.

"Courthouses are symbolic centers for the communities they are in and generate respect for the judicial system. The Berkeley County Judicial Center is a grand and fitting public facility for the fastest-growing area in West Virginia."

The Berkeley County Judicial Center is in one of three buildings that formerly housed the Blue Ridge Outlet. The county bought the buildings in January 2002. One building previously was renovated to house county offices, including the county commission.

Renovations of the 150,000-square-foot building to house the judicial center began three years ago and have cost the county about $20 million, said Berkeley County Commission President Howard L. Strauss. The third building in the outlet mall will be reserved for any needed expansion of the judicial center.

"With the growth of Berkeley County, it's essential we have adequate space for all court operations and they are all under one roof," Strauss said. Berkeley County, which now has a population of about 99,000, is growing at a rate of about 4 percent a year, and is the second-most populous county in West Virginia.

The offices that will be in the judicial center are moving from five buildings in downtown Martinsburg, three of which the county plans to sell. The new facility will provide much greater working conditions, more space and enhanced security.

The center will house offices and courtrooms for three of the four judges in the 23rd judicial circuit: Judges Christopher C. Wilkes, Gray Silver III, and David H. Sanders. Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr. presides in Jefferson County.

It also will house offices and two courtrooms for two family court judges, offices for five magistrates, three magistrate courtrooms and several magistrate court hearing rooms. The circuit clerk's office, magistrate clerk's office, Berkeley County prosecuting attorney's office and probation offices are moving into the facility.

Construction is substantially complete. County officials and their staff members will move into the building in November and December.

At the grand opening ceremony, Judge Wilkes will introduce the Supreme Court justices. Commissioner Strauss and Berkeley County Commissioners Steven C. Teufel and Ronald K. Collins as well as U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., will speak.

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