United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia
- 1 Vacancy warning level
- 2 Active judges
- 3 Jurisdiction
- 4 Caseloads
- 5 History of the court
- 6 Federal courthouse
- 7 See also
- 8 External links
- 9 References
The United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia is one of ninety-four United States district courts. When decisions of the court are appealed, they are appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in downtown Richmond, Virginia, at the Lewis F. Powell Federal Courthouse.
The United States Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia represents the United States in civil and criminal litigation in the court. The current district attorney is R. Booth Goodwin, II.
Vacancy warning level
There are no pending nominations for the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.
Article III judges
|Judge Joseph Goodwin||1942||Ripley, WV||Clinton||05/10/1995 - Present||2007 - 2012||Robert Staker||West Virginia U., B.S., 1965||West Virginia U. Law, J.D., 1970|
|Judge Thomas Johnston||1967||Charleston, WV||W. Bush||04/17/2006 - Present||Charles Haden II||West Virginia University, 1989||West Virginia University Law, 1992|
|Judge John Copenhaver||1925||Charleston, WV||Ford||09/3/1996 - Present||Kenneth Hall||West Virginia U., A.B., 1947||West Virginia U. Law, LL.B., 1950|
|Chief judge Robert Chambers||1952||Williamson, WV||Clinton||09/18/1997 - Present||2012 - Present||Elizabeth Hallanan||Marshall U., 1974||West Virginia U. Law, 1977|
|Judge Irene Berger||1954||Obama||11/09/2009 - Present||David Faber||West Virginia U., B.A., 1976||West Virginia U. Law, J.D., 1979|
Active Article III judges by appointing political party
This graph displays the percent of active judges by the party of the appointing president and does not reflect how a judge may rule on specific cases or their own political preferences.
|Senior Judge David Faber||H.W. Bush||11/25/1991 - 12/30/2008||2002 - 2007||12/31/2008 - Present||West Virginia U., A.B., 1964||Yale Law, J.D., 1967|
Senior judges by appointing political party
This graph displays the percent of senior judges by the party of the appointing president and does not reflect how a judge may rule on specific cases or their own political preferences.
|Magistrate Judge Clarke VanDervort||12/20/2002 - Present||Ohio U., A.B.||West Virginia U. Law, J.D.|
|Magistrate Judge Cheryl Eifert|
|Magistrate judge Dwane Tinsley||4/8/2013-Present||Davis & Elkins College, 1975||West Virginia University College of Law, 1981|
The Southern District of West Virginia has original jurisdiction over cases filed within its jurisdiction. These cases can include civil and criminal matters that fall under federal law.
- Boone County
- Cabell County
- Clay County
- Fayette County
- Greenbrier County
- Jackson County
- Kanawha County
- Lincoln County
- Logan County
- McDowell County
- Mason County
- Mercer County
- Mingo County
- Monroe County
- Nicholas County
- Putnam County
- Raleigh County
- Roane County
- Summers County
- Wayne County
- Wirt County
- Wood County
- Wyoming County
|Federal Court Caseload Statistics*|
|Year||Starting case load:||Cases filed:||Total cases:||Cases terminated:||Remaining cases:||Median time (Criminal)**:||Median time (Civil)**:||Three-year civil cases#:||Vacant posts:##||Trials/Post|
|*All statistics are taken from the Official Federal Courts' Website and reflect the calendar year through September.|
**Time in months from filing to completion.
For a searchable list of opinions, please see Judges of the Southern District of West Virginia.
|• Former judge gets 50 years for conspiracy charges (2014)||Click for summary→|
|A former Mingo County judge entered a plea of guilty and received his sentence for conspiring to deprive at least one man of his constitutional rights. Federal Judge Thomas Johnston gave Michael Thornsbury 50 months behind bars, a steep penalty considering he was expecting 30 to 37 months. Judge Johnston, however, wanted the sentence to serve as a warning and a reminder to others in Mingo County, which is known for corruption. In addition to Thornsbury, a former county prosecutor and county commissioner were implicated in the conspiracy ring. The county sheriff, Eugene Crum, would have been as well, but he was shot and killed in his patrol car in April 2013.
Federal prosecutors agreed to drop charges against Thornsbury for violating another man's constitutional rights. This man, Robert Woodruff, is the husband of Thornsbury's former secretary, Kim. Thornsbury wished to strike up an affair with Kim and felt if he got Robert out of the picture, she would turn to him.
Thornsbury asked to serve his sentence in a federal prison in Florida or Alabama, near where he has family.
|• Judge finds violations of Clean Water Act against mining companies (2014)||Click for summary→|
|Following several days of expert testimony from the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition's witnesses, Judge Robert Chambers found that the Elk Run Coal Company and Alex Energy, two mining companies, allowed ionic pollution to enter nearby waterways. The judge later held that "overwhelming scientific evidence" proved violations of the Clean Water Act had occurred.
| • Transvaginal mesh multidistrict litigation case (2014)|
Judge(s):Joseph Goodwin (In Re Ethicon, Inc., Pelvic Repair System Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2327)
|Click for summary→|
|In January 2014, in a decision which hinged upon the regulatory process involved, Judge Joseph Goodwin ruled that the manner in which Johnson & Johnson's transvaginal mesh product came to market could not be introduced as evidence in the multidistrict litigation case being heard in his court as it could confuse the jury.
As background, transvaginal mesh was used to treat women with pelvic and urinary problems, but some implants were allegedly defective, and caused the women to experience serious health problems. In the Ethicon cases, Johnson & Johnson's (J&J) Gynecare TVT product bypassed full pre-market Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review because it was made out of the same material, polypropylene, used in another J&J Ethicon division product that had already gone through full FDA review. The FDA's full pre-market review typically took about 1,200 hours, whereas the agency's review of Gynecare TVT took only 20 hours.In his decision, Judge Goodwin noted that focusing on the FDA review process involved in the case "pose[d] a substantial risk of misleading the jury and confusing the issue." J&J's Ethicon division argued that because polypropylene was approved and deemed safe by the FDA in the past for another product, its use in the Gynecare TVT product was also safe, thus barring plaintiffs from claiming it was defective. As Judge Goodwin wrote, however, Gynecare TVT "is a different product, used in a different manner, for a different purpose," and a discussion of its route to market could unnecessarily confuse a jury hearing the case.
| • Unconstitutional redistricting map (2012)|
Judge(s):Irene Berger, Robert King, John Bailey (Jefferson County Commission et al v. Tennant et al, 2:11-cv-00989)
|Click for summary→|
|On January 3, 2012, a three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia ruled that West Virginia's congressional redistricting plan was unconstitutional due its unequal distribution of population among the state’s three districts. The court gave the West Virginia Legislature until January 17, 2012, to come up with a new map -- otherwise, the panel would redraw the map. The state appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay on the decision.
Supreme Court appeal
On January 20, 2012, the Supreme Court stayed the lower court's ruling, requiring West Virginia lawmakers to redraw the state's congressional redistricting map. The order suggested that the court would be sympathetic to the state's defense in a full appeal. The order also allowed the state to move forward with the new maps for the 2012 elections. Prior to the ruling, several alternative plans had been considered in the state legislature.
The state had until March 27, 2012, to file a brief with the Supreme Court or seek an extension on the stay. On March 27, the state filed a brief asking the court to hear the case. If the case was not heard before the court, the lower court's ruling would have taken effect, and the maps would be redrawn.On September 25, 2012, the Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the lower federal court, upholding the new congressional districts as constitutional. In its eight-page ruling, the Supreme Court stated that somewhat unequal districts were permissible as the legislature legitimately sought to avoid drawing incumbents into the same district while keeping counties intact.
History of the court
The District of West Virginia was established by Congress on June 11, 1864, out of the Western District of Virginia with one post to cover the entire state. On January 22, 1901, Congress divided the district into the Northern District of West Virginia and Southern District of West Virginia with one post each. Over time, four additional judicial posts were added to the Southern District of West Virginia for a total of five current posts.
The following table highlights the development of judicial posts for the Southern District of West Virginia:
|June 11, 1864||13 Stat. 124||1 (Whole state)|
|January 22, 1901||31 Stat. 736||1|
|June 25, 1921||42 Stat. 67||2(1 temporary)|
|August, 1921||Temporary post expired||1|
|June 22, 1936||49 Stat. 1805||2 (1 temporary shared)|
|February 10, 1954||68 Stat. 8||2 (1 shared)|
|June 2, 1970||84 Stat. 294||3 (1 shared)|
|October 20, 1978||92 Stat. 1629||5 (1 shared, 1 temporary)|
|January 14, 1983||96 Stat. 2601 (temporary reassigned)||4|
|December 1, 1990||104 Stat. 5089||5|
Former chief judges
In order to qualify for the office of chief judge in one of the federal courts, a judge must have been in active service on the court for at least one year, be under the age of 65, and have not previously served as chief judge. A vacancy in the office of chief judge is filled by the judge highest in seniority among the group of qualified judges. The chief judge serves for a term of seven years or until age 70, whichever occurs first. The age restrictions are waived if no members of the court would otherwise be qualified for the position. Unlike the Chief Justice of the United States, a chief judge returns to active service after the expiration of his or her term and does not create a vacancy on the bench by the fact of his or her promotion.
For more information on the judges of the Southern District of West Virginia, see former federal judges of the Southern District of West Virginia.
There are four federal courthouses that serve the Southern District of West Virginia.
- U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, "Official Website"
- U.S. Attorney's Office Southern District of West Virginia, "Official Website"
- Southern District of West Virginia, "Judges' Information"
- Southern District of West Virginia, "Opinions"
- Offices of the United States Attorneys, "U.S. Attorneys Listing," accessed on August 2, 2014
- State Journal, "US District judge issues ruling on transvaginal mesh litigation," January 31, 2014
- Chicago Tribune, "Supreme Court keeps West Virginia redistricting map intact," January 20, 2012 (dead link)
- State Journal, "Legal Experts Comment on Congressional Redistricting Case," January 17, 2012
- Charleston Gazette, "Congressional redistricting plan introduced produces grumbling," January 16, 2012
- Charleston Gazette, "W.Va. lawmakers seek OK of congressional districts," March 27, 2012
- The Journal, "Commission updated on lawsuit," March 16, 2012
- Daily Mail, "Supreme Court rules: W.Va. redistricting can stand," September 25, 2012
- Federal Judicial Center, "History of the Districts of West Virginia," accessed on August 2, 2014
- United States Courts, "Frequently Asked Questions"
- United States Courts, "On Being Chief Judge," February 2009
- Southern District of West Virginia, "Court Locations," accessed on August 20, 2014
|Magistrate judges||Clarke VanDervort • Cheryl Eifert • Dwane Tinsley •|
|Former Article III judges||
Benjamin Franklin Keller • George Warwick McClintic • Harry Watkins • Sidney Christie • Charles Haden II • William Kidd • John Field • Kenneth Hall (West Virginia) • Elizabeth Hallanan • Dennis R. Knapp • Ben Moore • Robert Staker •
|Former Chief judges|
State of West Virginia
|State executive officers||
Governor | Lieutenant Governor | Attorney General | Secretary of State | Treasurer | State Auditor | Superintendent of Schools | Commissioner of Insurance | Commissioner of Agriculture | Director of Natural Resources | Commissioner of Labor | Chairman of Public Service Commission |