Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
|Supreme Court of Appeals
of West Virginia
Seal of the West Virginia Supreme Court
|Country||West Virginia , 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|
|Number of positions||5|
|Website||Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia|
|Lead position ends||2017|
|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 the home courthouses of the current justices, as an outreach program.
With the election of Beth Walker, beginning in January 2017, the court will be majority female.
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.
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.
|Office||Justice||Party||Assumed office||Next election|
|Chief Justice||Menis Ketchum||Democratic||2009||2020|
|Associate Justice||Margaret Workman||Democratic||2009||2020|
|Associate Justice||Robin Davis||Democratic||1996||2024|
|Associate Justice||Brent Benjamin||Republican||2005||2016 (lost)|
|Associate Justice||Allen Loughry||Republican||2013||2024|
Until 2015, elections to the Supreme Court of Appeals were partisan. After Republicans took control of the West Virginia Legislature, the election were changed to be non-partisan. In the first election held under the new system, elected Republican Justice Benjamin was defeated and will leave the court in January 2017, to be replaced by Beth Walker.
The Chief Justiceship is a rotating office, which by tradition changes from one Justice to another each year. 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.)
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.
The seats held by Justice Spike Maynard and Justice 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.
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. Justice Workman and Mr. Ketchum, both Democrats, were elected to the Court in November 2008 by defeating Republican Beth Walker.
The seats held by Justice Davis and Justice Thomas McHugh were up for election in 2012. Justice McHugh had previously stated he was retiring and not running for re-election. Justice Davis was re-elected, while Allen Loughry II was elected to his first term in office. Loughry was previously best known for writing Don't Buy Another Vote, I Won't Pay for a Landslide, a book that includes forewords written by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and former Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV). Loughry was elected as a Republican, meaning that court has 2 elected Republicans (Loughry and Brent Benjamin) for the first time since 1940. (The court had up to 3 appointed Republicans due to mid-term vacancies during Republican governorships, but none ever won the subsequent election.)
The seat currently held by Justice 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. Justice 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 was thus elected and will take a seat on the court in January 2017.
The seats currently held by Justices Ketchum and Workman will 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). Justice Ketchum, who will be 77 at the time of the election and 89 at the end of a second term stated at the time of the 2008 election he would not seek a second term. Justice Workman has not announced her plans. 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.
- West Virginia Code - Chapter 51
- West Virginia Code - Article 8, Section 2
- Justice Workman also served on the Court from 1989-1999.
- Charleston Gazette
- WSAZ-TV Web-Page
- "2012 General Election Results", West Virginia Secretary of State
- Davis Mistich "Two seats up for grabs in WV Supreme Court", West Virginia Public Broadcasting, November 2012
- Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia homepage
- Supreme Court of Appeals - Opinions homepage
- Supreme Court of Appeals - Court Calendar and Docket homepage