This article originally provided by
May 8, 2008
As Election Nears, Candidates Continue to Raise Money
The expenditures indicate how much effort the four
Democratic Supreme Court of Appeals candidates are putting in to winning the
voters' nod during the May 13 primary.
Story by Beth Gorczyca Ryan
CHARLESTON -- These days, it's hard to turn on the television or radio
without being reminded that two seats on the state Supreme Court of Appeals are
going to be up for grabs May 13.
All four Democratic candidates for the state's highest court have advertisements
on TV and radio introducing themselves to voters. As a result of those ads, as
well as campaign signs and other marketing efforts, the four candidates -- Bob
Bastress, Menis Ketchum, Elliott "Spike" Maynard and Margaret Workman -- spent
more than $917,000 combined between March 29 and April 27, according to
pre-primary election reports recently posted online by the Secretary of State's
Office. The filing deadline for the pre-primary reports was May 2.
The expenditures indicate how much effort the four Democratic candidates are
putting in to winning the voters' nod during the May 13 primary. The two top
vote recipients in the primary will face off against unopposed Republican Beth
Walker in November's general election.
The term for a Supreme Court justice is 12 years.
So far, the expenditures in the race outpace any other primary race in the
state, including the Democratic primary for governor, the Republican race for
attorney general and the Democratic race for secretary of state. According to
Secretary of State filings, the seven candidates running in those three
elections have spent $653,814.92 combined. Of that amount, Gov. Joe Manchin's
re-election campaign spent $352,517 during the pre-primary period, and Secretary
of State candidate Joe DeLong's campaign spent $237,595.
Contributions continue to flow in from campaign supporters, as well. According
to the pre-primary reports, the four candidates raised more than $1.6 million
during the roughly one month pre-primary period.
While the Supreme Court expenditures and contributions are varied, three of the
four Democratic candidates for the Court said they are running to make a
difference in the state and its court system.
New Type of Court Needed?
Recently, Bastress, a professor at West Virginia University's College of Law,
issued a report showing the amount of cases the Supreme Court has accepted
during the past several years has gone down. He said, if elected, he would
likely vote to accept more cases on appeal.
"Because the Supreme Court is the only appeals court in the state, it has to be
the court of last resort and the court of error," he said. "The court needs to
review more cases than it is. It doesn't have the luxury to cherry-pick cases."
Bastress said he wouldn't advocate creating an intermediate appellate court.
Instead, he said the Supreme Court should be relieved of its current duty of
reviewing workers' compensation cases.
"That's anywhere from 800 to 2,000 cases. Those could be funneled through the
Kanawha County Circuit Court or another circuit court," he said, noting that
type of change would have to come from the state Legislature.
Workman, a former Supreme Court justice who is currently working as a lawyer in
Charleston, said creating an intermediate-level appellate court would be very
expensive and said she'd rather see the money help family court judges.
Maynard, who is seeking re-election to his second term on the court, said the
report implying that the Supreme Court is doing less is flawed.
"The fact is the West Virginia Supreme Court is the busiest court in the nation.
Just look at the numbers. We review 3,000 cases a year, while the average
supreme court does 300 a year," he said.
He said it would be nice to have an intermediate court of appeal in West
Virginia, but its creation would be expensive.
Ketchum, a Huntington attorney, declined to comment. He said every time he tried
to talk about issues facing the Court and issues in the election, he was
"blistered" by the press. As a result, he said he wasn't participating in any
more candidate debates, forums or doing any more interviews.
Role of the Court
While candidates can't talk about how they would rule on specific issues or
cases before they come up, they can talk in general terms about issues facing
One criticism of the state's high court in the past is that judges have been too
"activist," that is, using their rulings to change state law and create desired
Workman said she is letting her history of rulings on the court speak for
"No one has to guess about what my record is," she said. "I followed the law."
During her previous tenure on the court, Workman said she created a judiciary
task force to review domestic violence fatalities that happened while the case
was progressing through the court system. She said she also visited every prison
in the state.
"One of the things I also believe in is if you sentence someone to prison, I
think you have to visit that prison," she said.
Maynard said court rulings in the past few years have helped the state improve
medical malpractice insurance rates for doctors and helped to lower auto
insurance by upholding laws passed by the Legislature.
While some have criticized the court for being too activist in the past, Maynard
said he is proud of the votes he has cast that he believes have helped to keep
people, businesses and jobs in West Virginia.
But is that the job of a justice? Maynard said the job impact of a ruling should
be one of many factors that judges take into consideration.
"If it's a criminal case, it is appropriate to look at public safety and it's a
proper thing to look at the economic impact on consumers and businesses in some
cases," he said.
Bastress said he doesn't think the court has been too activist in the past 10
years or so.
"It's the job of the Legislature to set policy," he said, adding, "There have
not been many incidents where the court has invoked the Constitution to strike
down legislation. They did it in the Economic Development Grants case, and I
think it was appropriate."
The current race and the Supreme Court race back in 2004 have raised questions
in certain arenas about whether judges and justices should be elected or
Maynard said he doesn't believe there is any perfect way to select judges. Both
elections and appointments can be fraught with political maneuvering. A possible
solution to that, he said, is make the races nonpartisan. That step, he said,
would reduce the amount of money candidates have to raise and would give the
appearance of removing party allegiances.
As a result, Bastress said people's opinions of the court have been impacted by
the influence of money in the races.
"The confidence is the lowest I've seen," he said. "In part that's due to the
growing part money has in judicial selection."
The candidates said the act of going out and raising money for their campaigns
has been uncomfortable and sometimes awkward.
To deal with that issue, Bastress said he supports public financing of judicial
"We have to invest in public financing to ensure any candidate can deliver his
or her message," he said.
Workman said one of the reasons why she wanted to serve the court again is to
bring it a bit of tranquility.
"The court needs me because as we all know there has been such turmoil and
vitriol up there," she said, adding, "I believe I am the person that can calm
the turmoil. I know them all. I am peacemaker."