Appointment & Operation

While justices of the peace were generally elected officials, magistrates are appointed by chief circuit court judges. Each magistrate serves a 4 year term and may be reappointed. Any persons, who are United states citizens and residents of the judicial district for which they are seeking appointment, are eligible to become magistrates. However, some may be precluded from appointment because of a statutory conflict of interest, such as having a law enforcement officer as a spouse. The number of magistrates in each district is authorized by the state Committee on District Courts and must be sufficient for the effective administration of justice. The city of Roanoke is served by 6 magistrates.

The chief circuit court judge has full supervisory authority over magistrates, but may delegate this authority to the chief general district court judge. Each district has a chief magistrate exercising direct daily supervision over the magistrates within the district. The chief magistrate in the downtown Roanoke office oversees the magistrates in the City of Roanoke, the County of Roanoke, the Town of Vinton, and the City of Salem.

The Roanoke magistrate's office is open 24 hours a day. Roanoke magistrates generally work about 40 hours a week in 8 to 10 hour shifts. In contrast, the majority of rural magistrates work on an availability basis and are contacted as needed by citizens or law enforcement officers. In some areas, magistrates work a fixed schedule during the day and are on call during night hours.

The 6 magistrates in the city of Roanoke receive approximately 175 complaints every day, of which approximately 150 result in warrants, subpoenas, or orders.