CHARLESTON – The future of a bill to add six circuit judges is up in the air.
Speaking to a Charleston Gazette reporter, Gov. Joe Manchin praised the Legislature's work on a bill to update the Family Court system, which will add judges and have new circuit boundaries.
But he told the paper that a similar bill focusing on Circuit Courts only "adds circuit judges" and indicated that he would like to see new circuits drawn because this is the last year lawmakers can realign judicial circuits for the next eight years.
Manchin spokeswoman Lara Ramsburg said Thursday that the governor has said he would have liked to have seen lawmakers look at redistricting. She said Manchin has concerns about the bill, but he has not made a decision yet.
State Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury said Thursday he remains hopeful that Manchin will sign the bill rather than veto it.
"You have to remember that the judiciary is not strictly population based," Canterbury said. "Of course, population is one engine that drives number of judges. But socio-economics is an equally important consideration.
"If you have the same population in one area and another area with a significantly different socio-economic balance -- with a larger number of people out of work or poor -- you inevitably will have more crimes and more types of cases that take longer for judges to work. They can be time consuming."
The six circuits that would have a judge added if the bill is passed are Wayne, Mingo, Mercer, Kanawha, Monongalia and the circuit that includes Pendleton, Hardy and Hampshire counties.
"Gov. Manchin realizes there is a need in these circuits," Canterbury said.
Also, Canterbury pointed out that the circuit court system and the circuit boundaries are much more established than the family court system and its boundaries.
"Family Court is so new," he said. "So it's understandable to see how it would be easier to tackle the Family Court circuits. The Circuit Court, however, is a different animal."