Wayne Circuit judge knows he's busy

By Chris Dickerson | Nov 10, 2006


WAYNE – Darrell Pratt doesn't need a study to tell him he's a busy man.

Still, the Wayne Circuit Court judge says he has no trouble believing the results of recent state Supreme Court-approved study that shows he is doing the work of 2.09 circuit judges.

"I'll vouch for it," he said Monday between hearings. "I certainly can tell it's getting busier."

The study, completed by the National Center for State Courts, found that Pratt, currently the lone judge in the 24th Circuit (Wayne County), does the work of 2.09.

The study could result in Pratt having another judge to help him out, if the state Legislature decides to follow the study's recommendations and add some circuit judges.

"I hope they do," Pratt said of the possible addition of judges. "The budget will dictate whether they feel like they can add a judge or two. The last time, the study recommended five, and they added three. So, we'll see.

"Heaven forbid that judges have some time to sit around, research and think about the cases they're hearing."

State code states that every eight years "in the odd-numbered year next preceding the time for the full term election of the judges," the West Virginia Legislature "may rearrange the circuits and may increase or diminish the number of circuits."

In 1998, Mingo County had the busiest circuit judge and Wayne was second. This time, those spots were reversed. Still, neither had a judge added to the circuit.

That year, the growing areas of Putnam County and the Eastern Panhandle had judges added, as did Harrison County where the FBI Fingerprint Center was opening.

"This time, the study doesn't recommend adding a certain number of judges," Pratt said. "They just suggest following their list of the areas with the most need.

"I hope they follow it. But because of the pay raise judges received a few years ago, they (the Legislature) might say we can't afford to.

"I think the question is, basically, can the judges working that hard do justice to the cases they're hearing? Because it does take a physical toll on judges."

Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury praised Pratt for his hard work in a busy job.

"Wayne is just a bad situation," he said. "They need a new judge. He (Pratt) has done a great job of keeping the docket current. But he works long hours to keep it steady."

While Pratt might seem cautiously optimistic about the addition of another judge in his circuit, Wayne County is waiting to know for sure.

"In 1998, our County Commission already had hired architect who did some designs for the addition of a courtroom and offices," Pratt said. "Then we didn't get one. Now, I think the county will wait and see what happens."

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