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GRASSROOTS ACTIVISTS DEMAND GOV. JIM JUSTICE RELEASE PUBLIC CRITERIA FOR INTERMEDIATE COURT JUDGES
To Preserve Trust in The Judiciary, West Virginians Need to Know Their Judges Are Being Picked for the Right Reasons
CHARLESTON — Grassroots activists are calling for greater accountability from Gov. Jim Justice and the state’s Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission in their selection of judges for West Virginia’s new appeals court. Precious little information has been released to the public about the West Virginia Intermediate Court of Appeals, which is set to begin operations in July 2022. Chief among the omissions by the governor’s office is a clear criteria for how members of the court will be selected.
“From one day to the next, this brand-new court will become one of the most powerful in our state, promising to have a huge impact on workers and families across our communities,” said Julie Archer, Coordinator for WV Citizens for Clean Elections. “West Virginians deserve to know when and why judges are being picked for their jobs. It’s essential that the governor’s office abide by a fair and impartial selection criteria, one that is readily available to the public.”
West Virginians have had limited opportunity to weigh in on the creation of the new Intermediate Court of Appeals, which was established by the legislature and then signed into law by Gov. Justice in April. It’s been a troubling start since then for the nascent court, which would preside over appeals from circuit courts as well as workers’ compensation claims. Until last month, there was no public information regarding how the governor’s office planned to move forward with the creation of the court, its rules, and the appointment process.
What we know now is the bare minimum. The court is set to open its doors in July of next year, but the selection of its judges could begin at any time. By law, the governor must appoint an initial bench of judges to the three-member court. The state’s Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission has been tasked with coming up with a list of candidate judges by January 1, 2022 to help Gov. Justice with his selections. However, the governor is not obligated to choose any of the commission’s recommended candidates, leaving the door open to a potentially arbitrary selection process.
“We need to make sure these judges are being selected based solely on their qualifications,” said Archer. “A public set of criteria will help prevent any direct or indirect political favoritism, safeguard the integrity of the court and preserve public confidence in our judiciary. Without further transparency around the selection process, there’s no way West Virginians can fully trust that their newest court will prioritize our state Constitution above all else.”