The American Bar Association says to have "judicial temperament... implies an absence of arrogance, impatience, pomposity, loquacity, irascibility, arbitrariness or tyranny."
On the West Virginia Supreme Court, it seems, it would imply an absence of Justice Larry Starcher.
That's likely what his colleagues were thinking last month when they dissed Starcher, scheduled to ascend to Chief Justice of the court in January. The position includes increased powers and discretion, plus a pedestal. But sick of suffering from the fallout of his big mouth, Starcher's benchmates thought better of handing over the reins and spotlight to their living activist caricature.
It's a sound decision, particularly as we approach the 2008 campaign season, in which Justice Starcher is on the ballot facing his first-ever statewide re-election. In the face of major opposition, he's surely inclined to turn up the populist jets. That's if this time is anything like the last.
In case you've forgotten, Starcher set a new Mountain State standard for embarrassing and unethical rhetoric during his 1996 Democratic primary challenge to then-sitting Justice Arthur Recht. He assailed the incumbent for representing businesses as a private lawyer, boasted of siding with workers as a judge on asbestos cases, then essentially promised a union that he'd side with them in their cases before the court.
"Neither you nor labor would be disappointed with a justice such as (me) on the high court," Starcher promised.
Fawning with condescension over the "working man" while concurrently posing as one is Starcher's favorite tactic. He likes to brag about his humble upbringing, including the inspiration behind his early arrival at the office (his father did, too) and how his mother delivered him at a rural farmhouse "unassisted."
You're supposed to be amazed, tear up and mentally applaud at the miracle that a man like Starcher might rise from such circumstances to become... a career politician.
The second part of his act involves tearing down others. Starcher called Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship "stupid" and "a clown" while chastising the coal industry and, more recently, lamented to the New York Times that fellow Justice Brent Benjamin was "bought." It's all to the detriment of West Virginia's highest court and its credibility, of course. But in Starcher's service as judge, interpreting the law always seems to play second fiddle to his personal ambition.
Justices Benjamin, Robin Davis and Spike Maynard deserve praise for finally bringing consequences to Starcher's actions. We can only hope that two years from now, West Virginia voters follow their lead at the ballot box and send this man into retirement.