Va. federal courthouse to get busier
The federal courthouse in Newport News will soon be getting more traffic.
Federal magistrate judges said Tuesday that they will begin coming to the courthouse to hear more cases.
Starting Jan. 10., the judges will be at the courthouse twice a week to hear criminal felony and civil cases arising from the Peninsula division. That's a change from the current practice, in which the judges are at the Newport News courthouse five days a month.
The three Norfolk-based magistrate judges will hold preliminary hearings, bond hearings, arraignments, guilty plea hearings, and other pretrial motion hearings arising from Peninsula felony cases.
The Daily Press reports that the courthouse costs federal taxpayers a lease price of nearly $2 million a year. The newspaper found the courthouse sits mostly unused about two-thirds of the time, aside from seven days a month for misdemeanors, bankruptcy cases and a grand jury.
The practice has meant that defense attorneys, prosecutors, witnesses, defendants and family members have to travel to Norfolk for cases.
"This is just huge," Jimmy Ellenson, a Newport News attorney who practices often in federal court, said of Tuesday's change. "It's going to be helpful to the efficient administration of justice ... I, for one, am extremely grateful at this occurrence. This eliminates so many of the travel issues, and it makes perfect sense."
The new courthouse still won't have its own resident judge, and trials and sentencings will still be held in either Norfolk or Newport News at the discretion of the district judge on the case.