West Virginia Press Association Staff Report
CHARLESTON, W.Va – During a Thursday press conference held at the West Virginia Law Library in Charleston, Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Justice Tim Armstead announced that the state’s magistrate court records are now publicly accessible via the information superhighway.
“We understand that this court belongs to the people of our state,” Armstead, who was flanked by all four of his fellow justices, told members of the media. “It needs to be accessible to those who have a need to have information relating to our court system and the filings in our magistrate court.”
“What we’re excited to announce today is that we have a new way that the citizens of West Virginia can access information about our magistrate courts,” Armstead continued. “Before, you often had to go to the individual courthouses and access this information. This system will allow anyone, from your own computer or mobile device – any library in our state – to be able to access information regarding magistrate court filings.”
Armstead noted that the assortment of documents available online will go back as far as 2003, adding that, “In some counties, even farther.”
According to Armstead, this type of online access has been regularly requested by citizens of the state for quite some time.
“Now you can go onto this database and do a magistrate court search for all 55 counties at one time,” Armstead said. “It’s free. You don’t have to subscribe to any service. You can go on your own [device] and research this information from that one database.”
The public access terminals currently located in the magistrate clerk’s office of all 55 counties will still be available for use. Public access terminals will also be upgraded to provide search results from all counties in West Virginia.
“Let me thank our team that has worked on this,” Armstead noted. “This was done internally by our IT folks that work with the court. They’ve put a lot of time, effort, and work into this, and they’re excited to have it rolled out today.”
As part of the press conference, members of the media were given a demonstration of the new database by Director of Magistrate Services Nicole Cofer.
“It will show what the final disposition of each of the charges were,” Cofer explained. “If you continue to scroll down, it will show you the list of documents that are available. Now you cannot get these documents online, but it will direct you to the correct county. Then you can go to that county and ask for the documents that you need under that case because you’ll know what’s there and what’s not already.”
The new “Case Management System” may be accessed by visiting MCRSearch.courtswv.gov. An informational “how to” video is available on the site, as well.
“It’s been a real commitment of this court over the last several years to try to make court records more accessible,” Armstead added. “We think this is the next step in that process. We’re going to continue to look for opportunities to make our documents and records even more accessible. We recognize these documents belong to the public, and this is a court system that’s here to serve the citizens of our state.”
Photo caption: Justice C. Haley Bunn, Justice William R. Wooten, Justice Elizabeth D. Walker, Justice John A. Hutchison, and Chief Justice Tim Armstead