Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

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Supreme Court of Appeals
of West Virginia
Seal of the West Virginia Supreme Court
Established 1863; 1872
Country West Virginia West Virginia, United States United States
Location Charleston, West Virginia
Authorized by West Virginia Constitution
Decisions are appealed to Supreme Court of the United States
Judge term length 12 Years
No. of positions 5
Website Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
Chief Justice
Currently Margaret Workman
Since 2018
Lead position ends 2018
Jurist term ends 2020

The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia is the state supreme court of the state of West Virginia, the highest of West Virginia's state courts. It is located in the state capital, Charleston, although in recent years it has operated a system where court is held for a single day at various colleges and in various county courthouses around the state, as an outreach program.

As of 2017, the court is one of eleven state supreme courts that has a female majority.

Although the West Virginia Constitution allows for an intermediate court of appeals to be created, the Supreme Court currently provides the only review of the decisions of the state's trial courts of general jurisdiction, the West Virginia Circuit Courts. In December 2010, the Supreme Court promulgated a major revision of West Virginia's rules of appellate procedure, by which it provided that it would hear all properly perfected appeals of right from the circuit courts.

The justices of the court were elected to 12-year terms by staggered, statewide, partisan elections. In 2015 the Legislature provided that future elections will be on a non-partisan basis and, in years that two seats are up, be elected in separate elections for each seat. Pursuant to the West Virginia Code (chapter 51), the Court holds two regular sessions annually with the first session commencing on the second Tuesday in January and the second session commencing on the first Wednesday in September. The Court may also sit in special session as needed.[1]

Upon the death, resignation, or removal of a sitting justice, Article 8, Section 2 of the West Virginia Constitution permits the Governor to appoint a replacement. An election to fulfill the unexpired term must be held by the next regular general election. Because of the long length of the courts term (12 years), mid-term vacancies are frequent.[2]


Office Justice Party Assumed office Next election
Chief Justice Margaret Workman Democratic 2009 2020
Justice Robin Davis Democratic 1996 2024
Justice vacant Vacant NA 2018
Justice Allen Loughry Republican 2013 2024
Justice Beth Walker Non-Partisan 2017 2028

Until 2015, elections to the Supreme Court of Appeals were partisan. After Republicans took control of the West Virginia Legislature, the elections were changed to be non-partisan. Despite her nonpartisan status, Walker is known to be a Republican.

The Chief Justiceship is a rotating office, which by tradition changed from one Justice to another each year. In 2017 the court decided to change the term to four years [3] It brings primarily administrative duties, although the Chief Justice does have the authority to appoint replacements for recused justices under, Article 8, Section 2 of the West Virginia Constitution. (The duty would fall to the longest serving Justice should the Chief Justice him or herself be recused.) However, in light of a federal investigation into the court's spending, the court held an emergency meeting and replaced Justice Loughry for the remainder of 2018 and has not announced the future of the Chief Justice position.[4]

The Court sometimes designates "senior-status" (retired) judges or justices to temporarily fill vacancies when required. Other times it will promote a current Circuit Court Judge. By tradition most Circuit Judges are promoted to at least one such case during their careers.

As of June 2018, Allen Loughry is suspended from all judicial functions due to ongoing disciplinary proceedings.[5]

On July 11, 2018, Menis Ketchum, resigned from the court.[6]


2008 Elections[edit]

The seats held by Spike Maynard and Larry Starcher were up for full-term election in 2008. Maynard was considered to be at the right of the court at the time, and Starcher to the left.

On December 20, 2007, Justice Starcher announced that he would not seek another term on the Court, as polls indicated he would not win.[7]

In the May 13, 2008 primary election, Maynard was defeated for reelection, placing third in the Democratic primary. Maynard was defeated for the two available spots in the general election by former Supreme Court justice Margaret Workman and Huntington attorney Menis Ketchum.[8] Workman and Ketchum, both Democrats, were elected to the Court in November 2008 by defeating Republican Beth Walker.

2012 Elections[edit]

The seats held by Robin Davis and Thomas McHugh were up for election in 2012. McHugh had previously stated he was retiring and not running for re-election. Davis was re-elected, while Allen Loughry II was elected to his first term in office.[9] Loughry was previously best known for writing Don't Buy Another Vote, I Won't Pay for a Landslide, a book that about political corruption in West Virginia.[10] Loughry was elected as a Republican, meaning that court had two elected Republicans (Loughry and Brent Benjamin) for the first time since 1940.

2016 Election[edit]

The seat held by Brent Benjamin was contested. This was the first election held on a non-partisan basis, and the first decided during the May primary election rather than in November. Because the expiration of the 12 year Supreme Court term and the 8 year Circuit Court term coincided, no current circuit judge could run for the seat without forgoing an attempt at re-election to his or her current position. Benjamin announced on April 16, 2015 that he would seek a second term, this one on a non-partisan basis. On June 5, 2015, Beth Walker, announced she would be a candidate, stating that she would run to the political right of Benjamin. On December 12, 2015, trial lawyer and former Democratic legislator, William Wooten, announced he would be a candidate, supported by donations from trial lawyers and run to the left of those candidates. On the last day to file, former justice Darrell McGraw, who was voted out of office after one term in 1988 announced he would run to the left of all candidates.

In the election, Beth Walker received 39% of the vote to McGraw's 23%, Wooten's 21% and Benjamin's 12%. Walker took office on January 1, 2017.

2018 Election[edit]

On July 11, 2018, Justice Ketchum resigned, triggering a special election to be held in November. The Governor has the power to appoint a replacement until that time, or the Chief Justice may use her power to elevate current or retired circuit judges or retired justices to that position. [11] Whomever wins in November will serve the remaining time of Ketchum's term, which would expire January 1, 2021.

2020 Election[edit]

The seats currently held by Justices Workman and whomever is elected in 2018will be contested. This election will again be held on a non-partisan basis and will consist of a separate election for each seat (previously when 2 seats were up a single "vote for two" election was held). Because the 8 year Circuit Judge term and the 12 year Supreme Court term are not overlapping, current Circuit Judges can run in 2020 without giving up their current seats.

2017-2018 expenses scandal[edit]

In late 2017, WCHS-TV and other media outlets began reporting on spending by the court. Eventually, an ongoing investigation by the United States Attorney was launched[12] and the court was audited by the state's legislative auditor.

The legislative auditor found multiple irregularities in the court's practices including undocumented[13] and commuting use of court-owned vehicles and the improper purchase of gift cards[14]. Significant public attention was centered on spending for expensive office renovations, including a $32,000 couch for Loughry, and Loughry's use of an original Cass Gilbert-designed desk from the State Capitol at his home.[15] Justice Ketchum was reported to have used a state vehicle to travel from his home in Huntington to work, and for several vacation trips, without paying tax on the fringe benefit.[16] Justice Ketchum then had his income tax amended to pay the back tax and repaid the state over $1600 for the issue.

Early in 2018, the other four justices voted to remove Allen Loughry from his position as chief justice when they became aware he had withheld the existence of a federal grand jury subpoena from them. On June 6, 2018, Loughry was charged with 32 violations of the state Code of Judicial Conduct.[17] Loughry was subsequently suspended from office as a result of these charges.[18]

On June 20, 2018, West Virginia Day, the United States Attorney indicted Loughry on 22 counts. He faces nearly 400 years in prison.[19]

On June 26, 2018, the West Virginia House of Delegates assembled in special session to consider Loughry's or any other justice'simpeachment[20].

On July 11, 2018, Ketchum resigned.

Under the West Virginia Constitution as exists presently, the budget of the judicial branch is not subject to outside review like that of the legislative of executive branches. In November 2018, voters will consider a consitutional amendment that would subject the judiciary's budget to oversight as part of the budget process used by the rest of state government. [21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ West Virginia Code - Chapter 51
  2. ^ "West Virginia Constitution". Retrieved 11 April 2018. 
  3. ^ Dickerson, Chris. "State Supreme Court selects Loughry to four-year term as Chief Justice". Retrieved 11 April 2018. 
  4. ^ "WV MetroNews – Loughry is out as chief justice, referencing federal investigation". Retrieved 11 April 2018. 
  5. ^
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  7. ^ "Charleston Gazette". Retrieved 11 April 2018. 
  8. ^ WSAZ. "Elections". Retrieved 11 April 2018. 
  9. ^ "2012 General Election Results", West Virginia Secretary of State
  10. ^ Davis Mistich "Two seats up for grabs in WV Supreme Court", West Virginia Public Broadcasting, November 2012
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External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°20′11″N 81°36′43″W / 38.336401°N 81.612062°W / 38.336401; -81.612062