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Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

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]

Supreme Court of Appeals
of West Virginia
Seal of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
Established1863; 1872
LocationCharleston, West Virginia
Authorized byWest Virginia Constitution
Appeals toSupreme Court of the United States
Judge term length12 Years
Number of positions5
WebsiteSupreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
Chief Justice
CurrentlyBeth Walker
Lead position ends2020
Jurist term ends2028

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, only one justice remains from the partisan era.

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]


Office Justice Party Assumed office Next election
Chief Justice Beth Walker Republican January 1, 2017 2028
Justice Margaret Workman Democratic January 1, 2009 2020
Justice Tim Armstead Republican September 25, 2018 2020
Justice Evan Jenkins Republican October 1, 2018 2024
Justice John Hutchison Democratic December 12, 2018 2020

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, the political party memberships of all justices are known, as all have held or run for other partisan offices.

On July 11, 2018, Menis Ketchum resigned from the court.[4] On July 31, 2018, in a plea bargain, Ketchum pled guilty to a single felony count of wire fraud.[5]

On August 13, 2018, Robin Davis retired from the court after being impeached.[6]

On November 12, 2018, Allen Loughry resigned after being impeached and convicted of multiple federal felonies.

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

On December 12, 2018, Justice appointed Hutchison, a lifelong friend and circuit judge in Raleigh County, to the seat vacated by Loughry. Justice made the appointment despite Hutchison being in a different political party from himself, describing Hutchison as "a conservative" and "a respected jurist". [8]

The Chief Justiceship is a rotating office, which by tradition changed from one Justice to another each year. In October 2018 it was announced that Beth Walker was selected for a one year term for 2019. This is her first time as Chief.

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 was a temporary assignment and did not constitute Ferrell becoming a Justice. In light of Loughry's resignation and Hutchison's appointment, Ferrell returned to duty in Cabell County at the end of the fall 2018 court term. [9]


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.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12] 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.[13] 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 held on November 6, 2018. The Governor filled the vacancy until the election by appointing Tim Armstead, the former state House Speaker. A total of 10 candidates filed for the seat. Tim Armstead, the appointee was elected with 26% of the vote, with Kanawha County Circuit Court judge Joanna I. Tabit receiving 22%, Eastern Panhandle Circuit Court Chief Judge Chris Wilkes receiving 13%, former State Senator Mark Hunt receiving 12%, and 6 remaining candidates splitting the remainder. [14] Armstead will continue to serve the remaining time of Ketchum's term, which will 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 held on November 6, 2018. The Governor filled the vacancy until the election by appointing Evan Jenkins, who resigned from Congress to fill the seat. A total of 10 candidates filed for this seat as well. Evan Jenkins, the appointee was elected with 36% of the vote, with Dennise Renee Smith receiving 14%, former State Senate president Jeff Kessler receiving 12%, and the 7 remaining candidates splitting the remainder.[15] Jenkins will continue to serve the remaining time of Davis' term, which would expire on January 2, 2025.

2020 ElectionEdit

Three separate elections will be held in May 2020.

The full-term (12 years) seats currently held by Justices Workman and Justice Armstead will be contested. These elections 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). The winner of each election will take office in January 2021. Justice Armstead has stated he will be a candidate for re-election. Justice Workman has not stated her intentions.

A third, special, election, will be held to fill the remainder of what was originally Loughry's term, now filled by appointment by Hutchison. The winner of this election would take office as soon as the election results are known (presumably shortly after election day) until January 2025, with the seat again open in the elections of 2024. Justice Hutchison has not stated his intensions.

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 jobs.

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,[16] and the court was audited by the state's legislative auditor.

The charges of rampant corruption led to calls 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.[5] Justice Loughry was convicted in the same court on October 12, 2018 of seven counts of wire fraud, two counts of lying to federal investigators and one count each of mail fraud and witness tampering. He was originally scheduled to be sentenced on January 16, 2019, however, those proceedings are currently on hold.[17]

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. The West Virginia Senate, however, refused to dismiss the articles of impeachment against Davis and scheduled her for trial along with the other justices.[18]

In the first of the four impeachment trials, the Senate, in a 32-1-1 vote on October 2, 2018, decided not to remove Justice Walker from office. The Senate followed by agreeing, by voice vote, to publicly "reprimand and censure" Justice Walker for her actions in the scandal.[19]

The remaining justices were scheduled to tried separately in October and November 2018. Rather than face trial, Justice Workman sued the Legislature before a reconstituted Supreme Court, which ruled in her favor on technical grounds. As this also applied to Justice Loughry, he continued to be a Justice until resigning November 12, 2018. Further impeachment efforts against Workman are doubtful.[20]

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. ^ "WV MetroNews – Justice Ketchum steps away from the Supreme Court".
  5. ^ a b Dickerson, Chris. "Ketchum pleads guilty to federal information regarding car use".
  6. ^ Taylor, Anna; Morris, Jeff (August 14, 2018). "West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis announces retirement". WCHS-8 – Eyewitness News. Retrieved September 4, 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. ^
  9. ^ Cabell County Circuit Court judge appointed to WV Supreme Court.
  10. ^ "Charleston Gazette". Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  11. ^ WSAZ. "Elections". Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  12. ^ "2012 General Election Results", West Virginia Secretary of State
  13. ^ Davis Mistich "Two seats up for grabs in WV Supreme Court", West Virginia Public Broadcasting, November 2012
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ McElhinny, Brad (April 16, 2018). "Chief Justice Workman says WV Supreme Court has to restore public trust". Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  17. ^ WV Supreme Court Justice Loughry guilty on 11 of 22 federal charges.
  18. ^
  19. ^ Senators reprimand Justice Walker, but vote to not impeach.
  20. ^

External linksEdit