CHARLESTON – Timothy Bailey said it was partially the slug’s pace of much of the work involving defense litigation that led him to plaintiffs’ law.
But he says the main reason he ended up as a plaintiffs’ attorney was his upbringing in a coal mining community and coming from three generations of coal miners.
Bailey, who recently assumed the president’s post of the West Virginia Association for Justice, said his background gave him a respect for the West Virginia worker.
“For the most part, what they have to offer is a strong back, legs, arms and dedication to the job,” Bailey said.
Workers in the coal, timber and other industries work dangerous jobs. And they’re paid well for it. Bailey said when those workers are injured, or killed, the financial loss to a family is devastating.
“Growing up in a coal mining community, I got to see a lot of that,” Bailey said. “And it’s just something that I’ve carried with me into my practice.”
Bailey, 42, represented the estate of James Bennett, one of the miners killed in the Sago Mine disaster in 2006. He also represented the estate of one of the people killed in a propane explosion at a Ghent gas station. And he’s currently involved in representing eight of the miners who were trapped in a fire at the Aracoma Mine.
Born in Mullens, Bailey said he was raised in Man, Logan County. After graduating high school, he went on to West Virginia University, where he earned a bachelor’s of science in finance in 1988. He served as the student body treasure and was a Mountain Honorary, which he called one of the highest honors at the school.
After graduating college, he said he subsequently got accepted into many out of state law schools as well as WVU.
“I knew I wanted to practice law and I also knew that I wanted to stay in West Virginia,” he said.
He got out of law school in 1991 and went to practice with the Bowles Rice McDavid Graff and Love firm. He said he came to the defense firm because Tom Lane, a partner there, was one of his instructors in law school in a class focusing on coal, oil and gas litigation.
Bailey said he worked with some great people at that firm, but he got impatient with the pace of defense litigation.
He got on with a plaintiffs firm in Huntington and shared office space with lawyers Guy Bucci and Robert Chambers, who is now a U.S. District Court judge.
When Chambers went off to be a judge, Bailey said he was asked by Bucci to help with the cases he left behind, which is how he came to work at his current firm, Bucci Bailey and Javins. The practice meshed with Bailey’s feelings for state workers. And he was with a fine plaintiffs’ lawyer, he said.
“Guy Bucci has been doing workplace injury cases for a long time,” Bailey said. “He’s one of the deans for that practice of law in the state.”
Bailey said he and his wife, Erika -– with whom he has two children -– are active in the state’s Democratic Party. Erika had previously served as executive director of the party, as well as deputy press secretary for former Gov. Gaston Caperton during his second term, Bailey said. She also served as press secretary for Charlotte Pritt’s campaign in 1996, he said.
Bailey will serve as WVAJ’s president for one year. He said his main goal is to advocate for plaintiffs as a nine-member committee appointed by Gov. Joe Manchin studies how to reform the state’s judiciary.
“They have to have a voice,” Bailey said. “They’re interested parties in this process and certainly they have to have a voice.”
Bailey said he’s also calling for a more open discussion of the state of the courts. He said he’s been disheartened by all the criticism of the state being a “judicial hellhole.” Bailey said he feels there’s been almost an unwillingness of critics to sit down with the other side -– like the WVAJ –- and talk it out.
“I think we can do things constructively,” he said. “There are positive ways to address concerns on both sides of the table.”
Bailey said it’s not necessary to give up the constitutional right to a jury trial to correct whatever might be wrong with the courts. Some groups are interested in limited a plaintiffs access to the courts.
“I don’t understand why only some parts of the Constitution are held so near and dear and other’s aren’t,” he said.