In response to former Justice Evan Jenkins’s recent resignation from the State Supreme Court, members the House of Delegates are moving quickly to strip West Virginians of their ability to have a say in who will fill the seat left vacant by Jenkins’s departure.
We have a process in place for filling judicial vacancies and that process involves West Virginia voters. HB 4785 would eliminate their role and an important check on the governor’s appointment power.
Under current law, Jenkins’s replacement would be required to stand for election in November. When a vacancy occurs on the State Supreme Court, the governor fills the seat by appointment. If there are more than two year’s remaining in the term, the governor’s appointee must run in a special election before completing the rest of that same term. HB 4785 would raise the threshold to three years, taking power away from West Virginia voters, and shielding partisan or incompetent judges from any kind of public check for several years.
HB 4785 is a judicial power grab. It takes power away from West Virginia voters and hands it to the governor instead.
HB 4785 is dangerous. It could shield partisan or incompetent judges from any kind of public check for several years. There’s no telling the damage that could be done in that time.
HB 4785 undermines trust in the courts. West Virginians expect a fair shake from their courts, but that’s impossible if their say-so over judicial appointees is stripped away.
HB 4785 could affect every West Virginian. Our state Supreme Court often has the final say on critical issues like education funding, access to healthcare, worker protections, neighborhood safety, and the quality of our air and water. The stakes for regular West Virginians are far too high to risk this kind of judicial power grab.
The people of West Virginia deserve to have a say-so on their courts.
Use the toolkit below to submit a letter to the editor to your local paper on HB 4785.