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Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

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Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
Court information
Justices:   5
Chief:  $136,000
Associates:  $136,000
Judicial selection
Method:   Partisan election of judges
Term:   12 years
Active justices

Robin Jean Davis  •  Margaret Workman  •  Brent Benjamin  •  Menis Ketchum  •  Allen Loughry  •  

Seal of West Virginia.png

The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia is the highest court in West Virginia. Although the West Virginia Constitution allows for an intermediate court of appeals to be created, the Supreme Court currently provides the only appellate review of the decisions of lower trial courts (called "circuit courts").

The courthouse is located in the state capital, Charleston, West Virginia.


Justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has five justices who are elected by the voters in partisan elections to 12-year terms. A replacement may be appointed by the Governor in the case of a mid-term court vacancy. In the case of temporary inability of a justice to serve the court, the chief justice may assign a Circuit Court judge to serve in their stead.

A retired justice or judge may apply for senior status to serve on temporary assignment as a justice of the supreme court of appeals, pending approval by the supreme court of appeals.[1]

The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected byParty
Chief Justice Robin Jean Davis1996-2024Democratic
Justice Margaret Workman2008-2020Democratic
Justice Brent Benjamin2004-2016Republican
Justice Menis Ketchum2008-2020Democratic
Justice Allen Loughry2013-2024Republican

Chief justice

The Chief Justice position rotates among the justices each year.[2]


The court has original jurisdiction on matters of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, and certiorari. The court also interprets the law and the constitution.[3]

Judicial selection

Each of the five justices on the Supreme Court of Appeals in West Virginia serves terms of 12 years. In the case of a vacancy, the Governor of the state appoints the justice. That appointed justice must then run in the next general election.[4]


Justices must have practiced law for at least 10 years.[5]

Political outlook

See also: Political outlook of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of West Virginia was given a campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, West Virginia received a score of -0.35. Based on the justices selected, West Virginia was the 13th most liberal court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.[6]


Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2014 * *
2013 1,319 1,360
2012 1,524 908
2011 1,744 678**
2010 1,668 2,782
2009 1,917 3,589
2008 2,411 4,102
2007 3,954 2,532


* West Virginia has not yet released 2014 caseload data.

** This number reflects decisions on the merits issued by the West Virginia Supreme Court during 2011. It does not reflect the total number of dispositions of the court. The statistical report made available by the Clerk's Office does not contain that information.

Schedule of the court

The court meets for two terms each year. The first goes from January to July, and the second extends from the first Wednesday in September to December. The time between the two sessions is called "sine die," which means "without day" in Latin.[8]

Notable decisions


Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. West Virginia earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.[12]

History of the court

U.S. Supreme Court asked to intervene

The New York Times reported in October of 2008 that the nation's court of last resort will potentially hear three cases dealing with businesses and their right to appeal, as well as influence over, the West Virginia Supreme Court. One of the cases involves current Justice Benjamin's refusal to recuse himself from a pending case before the West Virginia bench in which one of Benjamin's past campaign contributors (more than $3 million) is involved; at issue is due process. Benjamin has "twice joined a 3-to-2 majority throwing out a $50 million verdict against the company," the paper reported. The case (Caperton v. A. T. Massey Coal Company No. 08-22) has accrued supporting briefs from the American Bar Association and the Brennan Center for Justice. The contributor has filed briefs asking that the Supreme Court not hear the case, calling it “a grand conspiracy theory," and further commenting that the United States Supreme Court “has never adopted a ‘looks bad’ due process test.”

The second appeal, Massey Energy v. Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel Corporation (No. 08-218), also revolves around Massey Energy's influence over the court; Massey briefs claim that statements made by sitting Justice Larry Starcher against the energy company require Starcher's recusal from the case in question. Massey takes a different position in a second appeal to the United States Supreme Court, this one urging the court to disqualify Justice Starcher, he of the intemperate remarks. “There would be no inconsistency” in granting that appeal while turning back the one concerning Justice Benjamin, a Massey brief said, because Justice Starcher’s bias was manifest while Justice Benjamin’s conflict of interest, if there was one, was a question of appearances only.

In a classic "I'll do it if you do" move, Starcher has said he'll recuse himself only if Benjamin recuses himself from Caperton. At issue in the third appeal is whether or not companies hit with massive punitive damages lawsuits have a right to appeal to the state supreme court. Currently, West Virginia "[does] not guarantee at least one level of appellate review in civil cases." It is one of two states, Virginia being the other, that does not guarantee appellate reviews.[13]

Legal study

In a Metro News op-ed titled "We can figure this out," lawyers for the Peyton Law Firm advocate commissioning a disinterested firm to study how West Virginia could improve its judicial system. The editorial bemoans the two great factions influencing judicial operations--the plaintiffs' bar and big business--as well as the lack of appeals courts. Using the 2008 West Virginia Supreme Court election for the backdrop, the editorial criticizes the recent move by two special interest groups to attempt to convince federal judges to throw out election laws in order to attack candidates with anonymity. It goes on to assert this year's election will do little to change the fact that "Ideology has largely replaced qualifications as a defining characteristic for court candidates."[14]

Notable firsts

External links


Portions of this article have been taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Copyright Notice can be found here.


Candidates competed for two seats.

CandidateIncumbencyPartyPrimary VoteElection Vote
LoughryAllen Loughry   ApprovedANoRepublican26.27%   ApprovedA
RogersH. John Rogers    NoDemocratic9% 
BeaneJ.D. Beane    NoDemocratic11% 
YoderJohn Yoder    NoRepublican23.92%   DefeatedD
ChafinLetitia Chafin    NoDemocratic27%ApprovedA22.69%   DefeatedD
PalmerLouis Palmer    NoDemocratic6% 
DavisRobin Jean Davis   ApprovedAYesDemocratic28%ApprovedA27.11%   ApprovedA


See also: 2010 State Supreme Court elections

Incumbent Thomas E. McHugh faced challenger John Yoder and was re-elected.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
2010 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Thomas E. McHugh Green check mark transparent.png n/a 50.7%
John Yoder n/a n/a


See also: State Supreme Court elections, 2008

Incumbent Elliott E. Maynard competed against Margaret Workman, Elizabeth "Beth" Walker, and Menis Ketchum for the two seats up for grabs. Challengers Menis Ketchum and Margaret Workman were the winners.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
2008 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Menis Ketchum Green check mark transparent.png n/a 35%
Margaret Workman Green check mark transparent.png n/a 33%
Elizabeth "Beth" Walker n/a 32%
Elliott E. Maynard n/a n/a