WHEELING – A Wheeling attorney has been elected the new president of the West Virginia Association for Justice.
Scott Blass was elected last week at the WVAJ's annual convention in Charleston. He is a partner with the firm of Bordas and Bordas.
"It is a great honor to serve as president of the West Virginia Association for Justice," Blass said. "It is a position that has been held by some of the state's leading trial lawyers, and to have the endorsement and confidence of WVAJ's members is most definitely gratifying.
"I have had the opportunity to serve on the association's executive committee since 2005 under the leadership of some of our organization's most accomplished past presidents. It's somewhat worrisome when you think about the extraordinary shoes of previous presidents that I have to fill, but I look forward to living up to the successes of my predecessors."
Blass said he hopes to continue to push the association's goals.
"I had to do a presentation at the membership meeting to outline my priorities," he said. "But it's not my priorities. It's the organization's priorities."
First, Blass said the WVAJ must continue to solidify its membership base. Then, he said it must continue to work to educate the citizens of West Virginia "to tell them what we can do and to show them how important access to courts to everyone, including small businesses."
We're seeing more of that small business versus big business litigation," Blass said.
He also said it's important to keep the state's leadership in place.
"I told our membership our first priority has to be to encourage our friends, families, colleagues and citizens to keep the administration in place that's in place," he said. "They've done a good job in tough economic times. West Virginia has done so well in these tough economic times. If we do not keep them in office, our agenda will change. Then it change to trying to protect what has already been done.
"These men and women who sacrifice their time for West Virginia in state government with very little reward need to be recognized for that. I want someone in there who has a proven track rrecord. What Gov. (Earl Ray) Tomblin has done in his short term is almost unbelievable. But there's also the team element with the House and Senate leadership. We need to keep them all in office."
Blass said he will continue to educate West Virginia consumers, businesses and lawmakers about access to the courts and protecting their right to trial by jury.
"The right to trial by jury is in our state and federal constitutions for a reason," he said. "It is extraordinarily important to our democracy. Limiting a person's right to trial by jury is contrary to fundamental American values.
"It is not an issue of liberal versus conservative or Democrat versus Republican, it is an issue of constitutional rights and the rights of all individuals to obtain redress for grievances committed against them."
He stressed the business aspect again.
"It's a critical right for West Virginia businesses as well," he said. "Our courtrooms are the one place where every West Virginia small business is equal to any international corporation. Just like consumers and workers who have been harmed, our state businesses need to have the ability to pursue legal remedies when they are victimized by the misconduct of others.
"Unfortunately, too many state businesses are being fed misinformation by special interests representing those big corporations, and they fail to realize that, by supporting such efforts, they are limiting their own ability to obtain justice when they become the victim of an unscrupulous insurer or another business."
A native of Morgantown, Blass is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of West Virginia University with a B. A. in political science. He earned his J. D. from the WVU College of Law in 1987, and he received the Order of Barristers Award. After completing law school, he served first as an associate and then as a partner with the Wheeling law firm of Bachmann, Hess, Bachmann and Garden. He also served as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ohio County. He joined Bordas and Bordas in 1992. He is admitted to practice in state and federal courts in West Virginia and Ohio. He has represented clients in a variety of personal injury cases including medical malpractice, products liability, premises liability, automobile collisions, tractor-trailer accidents and motorcycle accidents.
Considering the success of his legal career, it is hard to imagine that initially Blass didn't plan on becoming a trial attorney. He intended to work in foreign relations at the U. S. State Department. His college advisor suggested that he earn a law degree since that would improve his federal pay grade. He began studying at the WVU College of Law in 1984.
"Once I got into law school and became involved in trial advocacy, I quickly abandoned the idea of working for the government," he said. "The competitive nature of trial advocacy was almost addictive. All successful trial attorneys are extraordinarily competitive. We hate to lose at anything."
Blass and his wife, Kathy, have been married 27 years. They have two sons and one granddaughter.
He said he looks forward to the time he'll spend in Charleston, especially during the legislative session.
"Fortunately, my children are grown," Blass said. "My wife is used to me not being home much. She accuses me of living in my office already. I also am extraordinarily fortunate to work for a firm that has great partners and associates. I'm looking forward to working with the executive committee and spending more time in Charleston. I enjoy speaking with representatives.
"I do have a good idea of what is expected of me as president. I've seen how much is involved. I have support here at the firm. I look forward to the work in some ways, but I also know what to expect. It's a great honor to have the respect of my colleagues. It is quite flattering."
Blass said the WVAJ hasn't discussed any legislative issues yet, but he does have one idea he wants to look at a little.
"I want to look at insurance claims after storms," he said. "I've heard from several people and businesses that, after filing a claim, have had their coverage dropped after 20 years or more. That just isn't right.
"There's nothing preventing companies from refusing to renew coverage, whether it's retired people, small businesses. It just seems unfair. I want to investigate that idea further."
Outside of law, Blass has served as president of Pike Cubs Baseball Association from 2000 to 2003 and also served on its board from 1998 to 2000. In 2002, he was elected vice president of the Mountaineer League Baseball Association, one of the largest PONY baseball organizations in the country. The league has fifteen member organizations and includes more than 1,400 boys and girls ages five through fourteen playing on more than one hundred teams. For the past 10 years he has been responsible for scheduling all of the games for the league, including the post-season tournament and scheduling umpires for the games. He has been a member of Wheeling Elks Lodge No. 28 since 1987.
Kathy Blass is a breast cancer survivor, and the couple founded Ohio Valley Breast Cancer Awareness, Inc. and its annual Driving Fore a Cure golf tournament. In 2009, the organization made a $10,000 contribution to Ohio Valley Medical Center for its state-of-the-art digital mammography unit. The organization also supports breast cancer research and public education.