By HOPPY KERCHEVAL

MORGANTOWN -- State Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis has made current and aspiring officeholders of her own Democratic Party -- and a few Republicans -- breathe a little easier.

That's because the veteran court member has decided to run for another 12-year term rather than seek another office.

Davis contemplated a U.S. Senate run in 2012, and she would have been a formidable challenger to Sen. Joe Manchin.

Davis' name also came up as a possible gubernatorial candidate, but she was reportedly less interested in that office.

Instead, Davis says she will run for re-election. The Boone County native and West Virginia University Law School graduate was first elected to the court in 1996 to fill an unexpired term, and was then re-elected to a full term in 2000.

"I think I would better serve the state of West Virginia and the people of West Virginia doing what I do best, which is working with the law," Davis said.

Davis has established herself during her 15 years on the court as intelligent and devoted to the law. She has served as chief justice five times.

She has, however, bumped heads with the business community over its push for a mid-level appellate court and an automatic right to appeal.

Davis believes the court's recently revised rules of appeal solve the problem, but critics, such as the state Chamber of Commerce, say the additional appeals court is needed to create a more business-friendly state.

Despite any business community concerns, Davis should be able to win re-election easily in 2012. She has already proven she can win a statewide campaign.

Plus, her husband, Scott Segal, is one of the most successful trial lawyers in the country, meaning there would be no problem financing a campaign.

In addition, the high court is no longer a magnet for controversy. The departure of Justices Larry Starcher, who did not run for re-election in 2008, and Spike Maynard, who lost his re-election bid, has meant a return of civility to the court.

But all this does not mean Davis has limited her future options exclusively to the state Supreme Court. She's believed to be interested in a position on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

There is a vacancy on the court, created earlier this year by death of Judge Blane Michael of West Virginia. That leaves just one West Virginian on the court, Judge Bob King.

U.S. Appeals Court positions are extremely prestigious. And though the 4th Circuit is based in Richmond, judges can keep their primary offices in their home state and report to the Richmond courthouse one week every month to hear cases.

The conventional wisdom has Davis on a list of possible candidates for the federal appeals court. The White House makes the final appointment, but that probably would not come unless and until President Obama is re-elected since judicial appointments tend to slow down near the end of a president's term.

That puts Davis in the logical position of running for re-election to the West Virginia court. And, being pragmatic, that's the direction she has chosen.

Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.

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