Local News

Wake County Faces Magistrate Shortage

Posted June 2, 2005

— Some argue a shortage of magistrates in Wake County is causing a backlog of cases and the ripple effect is felt on the entire justice system.

Chief Magistrate Gary Wills said that with only 13 full-time magistrates, Wake County's office is under-staffed, compared with most counties of similar and even smaller size.

In Mecklenburg County, there are as many as 28 magistrates. In Durham County, where the caseload is a third of Wake County, there are 14 magistrates. In Guilford County, there are as many as 27.

Wills said the backlog of cases puts a kink in the entire justice system, especially local police officers who end up waiting hours on end for arrest warrants.

"You take somebody in Rolesville for instance. They don't have a big police force there, so as a consequence, the citizens up there are open to thuggery," he said.

Many believe it all comes down to politics. The General Assembly provides the funding for the staffing and often times there is direct relationship between a lawmaker's political power and a county's number of magistrates.

"We need to do a statewide study of what the caseload is, what the need is in each county and go on those recommendations as the money is available," said Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake.

It is not just magistrates that are understaffed. There is also a shortage of district judges in Wake County. The House tried to get Wake County more funding, but the Senate's budget would actually cut money going to the courts.


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