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Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

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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 from 1873 to 1915, it was also required by state law to hold sessions in Charles Town in the state's Eastern Panhandle.[1] 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 2018, the court is one of eleven state supreme courts that has a female majority.

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

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.

Justices are elected to 12-year terms in staggered, statewide, nonpartisan elections. In years that two seats are up for election, a separate election is held for each seat. Before 2015, the justices of the court were elected in partisan elections; as of August 2018, therefore, three of the four incumbent justices had been elected in partisan elections.

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.[2]

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.[3]

On August 13, 2018, the West Virginia House of Delegates impeached the four remaining justices of the Court. Justice Robin Davis retired the next day rather than face trial.[4] The fifth justice, Menis Ketchum, already stepped down prior to the start of proceedings. The remaining three await trial in the West Virginia Senate.[5] If all three remaining justices are removed, it will be the only court without a sitting judge.[6]



Office Justice Party Assumed office Next election
Chief Justice Margaret Workman Democratic January 1, 2009 2020
Justice Tim Armstead Republican September 25,2018 2018
Justice Evan Jenkins
Republican September 2018 2018
Justice Allen Loughry
Suspended June 8, 2018
Republican January 1, 2013 2024
Justice Beth Walker Republican January 1, 2017 2028
Acting Justice
By designation
Paul Farrell
For Loughry
Democratic August 10, 2018

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 their officially nonpartisan status, Justice Walker along with Justice-designates Armstead and Jenkins are known to be Republicans while Acting Justice (by designation) Farrell is known to be a Democrat.

Governor Jim Justice appointed Jenkins (a Congressman), and Armstead (the former House of Delegates Speaker) to the vacant seats on August 25, 2018. Both Jenkins and Armstead filed their candidacies for the November general election.[7]

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 [8] 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.[9]

As of August 2018, Allen Loughry is suspended from all judicial functions due to ongoing disciplinary proceedings.[10]

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. For the Fall 2018 Term, the Court appointed Cabell County Circuit Court Judge Paul T. Farrell to sit in the place of Loughry. This is a temporary assignment and does not constitute Ferrell becoming a Justice.[11]

On July 11, 2018, Menis Ketchum resigned from the court.[12] On July 31, 2018, in a plea bargain, Ketchum pled guilty to a single felony count of wire fraud.[13]

On August 13, 2018, Robin Davis retired from the court after being impeached.[4]


2008 ElectionsEdit

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.[14]

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.[15] Workman and Ketchum, both Democrats, were elected to the Court in November 2008 by defeating Republican Beth Walker.

2012 ElectionsEdit

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.[16] 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.[17] Loughry was elected as a Republican, meaning that court had two elected Republicans (Loughry and Brent Benjamin) for the first time since 1940.

2016 ElectionEdit

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 ElectionsEdit

On July 11, 2018, due to the 2017-2018 expenses scandal (see below), Justice Ketchum resigned. This triggered the first special election to be held on November 6, 2018. This is called "Division One". A total of 10 candidates filed for the seat. Former House of Delegates speaker Tim Armstead of Elkview; Harry C. “Bo” Bruner Jr. of Charleston; Robert H. Carlton of Williamson; Ronald D. Hatfield of Huntington; Carl E. Hostler of Scott Depot; Hiram “Buck” Lewis IV of Procious; D.C. Offutt Jr. of Barboursville; Kanawha County Circuit Court judge Joanna I. Tabit of Charleston; Eastern Panhandle Circuit Court Chief Judge Chris Wilkes of Martinsburg; and Jeff C. Woods of Nitro. Whoever wins in November will serve the remaining time of Ketchum's term, which would expire on January 1, 2021.

On August 14, 2018, due to the 2017-2018 expenses scandal (see below), Justice Davis retired. This triggered the second special election be held on November 6, 2018. This is called "Division Two". A total of 10 candidates filed for this seat as well. Kanawha County Family Court judge Jim Douglas of Charleston; Robert J. Frank of Lewisburg; Congressman Evan Jenkins of Huntington; former State Senate president Jeff Kessler of Glen Dale; Brenden D. Long of Hurricane; Jim O’Brien of Wheeling; William Schwartz of Charleston; Marty “Redshoes” Sheehan of Wheeling; Dennise Renee Smith of Charleston; and Boone County Circuit Court judge William Stewart Thompson of Madison. Whomever wins in November will serve the remaining time of Davis' term, which would expire on January 2, 2025.[18]

2020 ElectionEdit

The seats currently held by Justices Workman and whomever is elected to finish Ketchum's term in 2018 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 two seats were being contested a single "vote for two" election was held). Because the 8-year Circuit Judge term and the 12-year Supreme Court terms are not overlapping, current Circuit Judges can run in 2020 without giving up their current seats.

2017-2018 expenses scandal and impeachment proceedingsEdit

In late 2017, WCHS-TV and other media outlets began reporting on spending by the court. Eventually, an ongoing investigation by the office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia was launched,[19] and the court was audited by the state's legislative auditor.

The charges of rampant corruption led to call for the impeachment of Loughry and any other member of the court found to be involved.

On July 11, 2018, Justice Ketchum resigned from the court. On July 31, 2018, he entered a guilty plea in the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia in Charleston to one count of wire fraud.[13]

On August 13, 2018, the full House of Delegates impeached the four remaining members of the court. On August 14, 2018, Justice Davis retired, effective August 13, 2018, rather than face trial on the impeachment.

The trials will take place in September 2018.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "On This Day in West Virginia History - August 6". 
  2. ^ "WV Code Chapter 51". 
  3. ^ "West Virginia Constitution". Retrieved 11 April 2018. 
  4. ^ a b Taylor, Anna; Morris, Jeff (August 14, 2018). "West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis announces retirement". WCHS-8 – Eyewitness News. Retrieved September 4, 2018. 
  5. ^ "WV MetroNews – Delegates advance impeachment articles against 4 W.Va. justices". 
  6. ^ "Just In: Committee Seeking Action Against Entirety Of State Supreme Court". 8 August 2018. 
  7. ^ Dickerson, Chris (2018-08-25). "Jenkins, Armstead appointed to temporary seats on state Supreme Court". West Virginia Record. Retrieved 2018-08-26. 
  8. ^ Dickerson, Chris. "State Supreme Court selects Loughry to four-year term as Chief Justice". Retrieved 11 April 2018. 
  9. ^ "WV MetroNews – Loughry is out as chief justice, referencing federal investigation". Retrieved 11 April 2018. 
  10. ^ "Suspension Order" (PDF). 
  11. ^ Cabell County Circuit Court judge appointed to WV Supreme Court.
  12. ^ "WV MetroNews – Justice Ketchum steps away from the Supreme Court". 
  13. ^ a b Dickerson, Chris. "Ketchum pleads guilty to federal information regarding car use". 
  14. ^ "Charleston Gazette". Retrieved 11 April 2018. 
  15. ^ WSAZ. "Elections". Retrieved 11 April 2018. 
  16. ^ "2012 General Election Results", West Virginia Secretary of State
  17. ^ Davis Mistich "Two seats up for grabs in WV Supreme Court", West Virginia Public Broadcasting, November 2012
  18. ^ Morris, Jeff; Taylor, Anna (August 22, 2018). "A total of 20 candidates running for West Virginia Supreme Court". WCHS-8 – Eyewitness News. Retrieved September 4, 2018. 
  19. ^ McElhinny, Brad (April 16, 2018). "Chief Justice Workman says WV Supreme Court has to restore public trust". Retrieved September 4, 2018. 

External linksEdit