CHARLESTON – State Democratic Party Chairman Nick Casey has been recommended for a federal judgeship in the Northern District of West Virginia.
In a letter to President Obama, Senators Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va., recommended Casey for the position created by the 2006 death of Craig Broadwater.
"Mr. Casey has distinguished himself as an attorney, as well as a tireless advocate for many social and civic causes," the senators told Obama in the letter. "Nick has earned the respect of the legal community throughout the State of West Virginia, and we believe he would make an exceptional Federal judge serving with honor and distinction."
Not everyone was so complimentary. One state delegate called the move pure "cronyism."
Casey, 56, is a lifelong West Virginian, and he is a partner with the Lewis Glasser Casey & Rollins law firm in Charleston. He also is a Certified Public Accountant and a former state delegate. He became chairman of the state Democratic Party after he was treasurer for Gov. Joe Manchin's 2004 campaign.
Casey has served as President of the West Virginia State Bar, the Kanawha County Bar Association and the West Virginia Bar Foundation. As past President, Board Member, and Foundation Fellow, Casey worked to advance the Bar Foundation's various philanthropic causes, including promoting community service, working to improve the administration of justice and empowering citizens with knowledge of their rights under the law in West Virginia.
Casey earned his law degree from West Virginia University College of Law and a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Kentucky. He is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, United States District Courts in West Virginia, United States Bankruptcy Court, United States Tax Court, United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and Circuit Courts in the State of West Virginia. He has been admitted to practice in the state courts of West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Byrd and Rockefeller had recommended Charleston attorney Ned Rose for the position, but Rose withdrew his name from consideration in July. Before that, President Bush had nominated Martinsburg attorney William Powell for the job, but the U.S. Senate didn't vote on that before Bush left office.
Earlier this month, Kanawha Circuit Judge Irene C. Berger's nomination to a Southern District judgeship was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The full Senate now must vote for her.
On his Web site, House of Delegates member Jonathan Miller was critical of Casey's recommendation.
"One thing is for sure, cronyism is alive and well in West Virginia," Miller, R-Berkeley, said. "The only reason the chairman of the Democratic Party is being recommended for a federal judgeship is because of cronyism."
Miller said Casey has made "brutal" comments about Republicans and their supporters, noting that Casey once said a list of donors to Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito "makes people's skin crawl."
"Nick Casey has been a deeply partisan and divisive political figure in West Virginia," Miller continued. "Nick Casey's only qualification to be appointed judge is that he's a lawyer. Other than that, he has no business being on the bench.
"Judges need to be fair, impartial, and respect the rule of law. What in Nick Casey's record suggests he is these things?"
Miller said he doubts Republicans would get a fair hearing before Casey, who he notes is Manchin's personal lawyer and a lobbyist for Mylan Inc.
"I don't see how anyone can come to the conclusion after looking at Casey's record that he will be a fair, impartial judge who respects the rule of law," Miller said. "Unfortunately, cronyism is getting in the way.
"The connection to Manchin and Mylan alone gives you enough clout to weasel your way into any position, no matter how ill qualified you are.
"The problem with cronyism is we (taxpayers and regular, hard-working West Virginians) lose while they (cronies in power) win. In this case, the 'they' is the Democrat establishment like Manchin, Casey, Mylan, etc.
"They will keep doing it because they can get away with it. Until we stand up to this blatant cronyism, we will never change West Virginia for the better."
The chair of the Kanawha County Republican Executive Committee also spoke out against the Casey nod.
"The nomination of a registered lobbyist to the federal bench goes against one of the biggest pledges President Obama made last year," Melody Potter said. "On multiple occasions the President said that lobbyists 'won't find a job' in his administration. I am urging the President to reject this nomination."
According to the West Virginia Ethics Commission, Casey is a registered lobbyist and authorized to represent the interests of 10 different clients ranging from the Wine Institute to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.
"I can only hope that President Obama will keep his campaign commitment and urge Senators Byrd and Rockefeller to nominate someone who doesn't have a history as a lobbyist and a partisan figurehead," Potter said.
When he heard of the Casey nomination, Republican state Delegate Craig Blair said he had to check his calendar to make sure it wasn't April 1.
"When I realized it wasn't, I figured it had to be a Halloween prank," said Blair, R-Berkeley. "But the scariest part of it all is that it appears to be dead serious.
"This is one more example of the kind of cronyism and Charleston-centric politics that has continued to leave our state devastated at the hands of the entrenched power players."