PRINCETON -– Mary Ellen Griffith was sworn in Monday as West Virginia's newest family court judge.
Mercer County Senior Status Judge John R. Frazier delivered the oath of office during a ceremony in his courtroom. Mercer County Circuit Judge Derek C. Swope, and Chief Circuit Judge Booker T. Stephens and Circuit Judge Rudolph J. Murensky II of McDowell County, among judicial officers, also attended the ceremony.
Griffith's daughter, Este Griffith, 27, and foster daughter, Emily Clower, 15, presented Griffith's robe.
"I'm really grateful in my life to have found something I'm really passionate about and I think is profoundly important, and that is assisting children when they encounter the judicial system," Griffith said. "I hope to be able to continue serving children and families as a judge of the 12th circuit."
Griffith pledged to be fair and efficient and to work diligently to eliminate a family court case backlog. She quoted William Gladtone, a 19th century British prime minister, "Justice delayed is justice denied."
Gov. Joe Manchin appointed Griffith to replace Kimber R. McMillion, who resigned in April.
Griffith received her law degree from West Virginia University College of Law in 1988 and worked at the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund from 1988 to 1991 before entering private practice. In 2001 she established Childlaw Services, Inc., the state's only legal service program for children.
She has been a trustee of the West Virginia State Bar's Client Protection Fund and chairwoman of the West Virginia State Bar Commission on Children and the Law. Griffith, a resident of Princeton, also has been a member of the West Virginia Domestic Violence and Child Victimization Work Group.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Robin Jean Davis said, "She is a very experienced family practitioner. She should bring her personal professional experience to her job and will be a great addition to the judiciary."
"Mary Griffith has been a great advocate for children and families in our community and our courts for many years," Judge Frazier said. "She has been an invaluable resource in the court's handling of abuse and neglect cases. Hundreds of children now have safe, secure and nurturing families because of the advocacy of Mary Griffith. This commitment she has for families and children will serve her well in her new position as family court judge, and I am confident that she will be a truly outstanding judge in this community for many years."
Family courts have jurisdiction over divorce, annulment, separate maintenance, paternity, grandparent visitation, name change, infant guardianship and child custody and family support proceedings, except those incidental to child abuse and neglect. Family court judges also hold final hearings in civil domestic violence protective order cases and may perform marriages.