CHARLESTON – State Supreme Court Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard says he isn't ready to give up his seat on the bench just yet.
While a formal announcement won't come until later this year, Maynard said June 13 that he plans to run for re-election in 2008.
"Right now, I'm planning to run," he said. "I think if you start a campaign, people get sick of it. So we'll wait until end of summer to start officially."
Maynard, who first was elected to the court in 1996 to a 12-year term, said he has a few big reasons for seeking another term on the court.
"I'm interested in running because we have a new court that has been in place a little over a year," he said. "And, to me, it looks like the court is headed in the right direction. We're doing good things for West Virginia, and I don't want to leave midstream. I think we're on the verge of big things."
Also, the 64-year-old Mingo County native said he simply isn't ready to retire.
"I feel good," he said. "I want to keep working. I don't want to be a geezer on a pension. I think that I've got to have something meaningful to do, and the court is so important to West Virginia.
"I want to make the public aware of how powerful and how important the court is. Many people don't realize the direct impact it has on their lives. I'm going to do that in this campaign. I think it often means more to the man on the street than the governor or the Legislature."
Maynard said he'll officially decide to run after looking at the issue of raising funds in a crowded 2008 election cycle. In addition to president and governor, all statewide positions, state Senate seats, all House seats, judge positions in every circuit as well as U.S. House seats will be on the ballot. Also, two seats on the state Supreme Court are up for grabs.
"Everybody in the world out there will be raising money," Maynard said. "There are a lot of high-profile races. It's not going to be easy trying to raise money."
But Maynard said now is a critical time for the state and the state Supreme Court, especially after so many changes on the court over the last decade.
"Now, we have some consistency on the court," Maynard said. "We need to make it more consistent, more reliable. I'm a strict constructionist of the Constitution. I think the court is headed in the right direction. For the most part, I think we're truly mindful of the proper role of the court and of judges."
Maynard said national criticism of West Virginia being a "judicial hellhole" that is bad for business needs to be addressed.
"When people like Forbes and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are saying these things, you can't ignore it," he said. "They influence whether these national businesses bring jobs to West Virginia. We need to work hard to change that perception. I think there have been a lot of fundamental changes.
"The real problem is that the national business community has that perception. And it's coming from lawyers representing big companies. As long as that perception is there, people aren't bringing jobs here. With this new court, I think you're going to see the national perception of us change."
Maynard noted some positives that he says the Supreme Court has played a key role in for the state.
One is having one of the lowest crime rates in the nation.
"West Virginia is very safe," he said. "With criminal law, we're getting it right. But we need to continue that and improve."
Another is medical malpractice reform.
"Five years ago, we had the medical provider crisis," Maynard said. "That has completely turned around with the med mal reforms. We have stopped the doctor drain. In fact, we have added 130 new doctors in the last 18 months. And we now have other companies coming back to write liability insurance."
Also, he said car insurance rates are going down.
"Without some of the reforms that have happened, they would have gone up," Maynard said "State government is doing something right, and the court is big part of that."
Finally, he mentioned the workers' compensation issue.
"Five years ago, we had a crisis. An impossible mess," Maynard said. "Today, most employers have seen premiums go down. Soon, we'll have competitive privatization, and you'll see an even bigger change."
Before being elected to the state Supreme Court, Maynard was a Mingo Circuit Judge, a county prosecutor, director of the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce and a private practice attorney.
A lifelong West Virginia resident, was born in Williamson and graduated from Belfry High School in Kentucky in 1960. He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1961 and did reconnaissance during the Cuban Missile Crisis and later was assigned to the 30th Bomb Wing in the Strategic Air Command. He served until being discharged in 1966.
He earned his undergraduate degree at Florida Southern College in 1967 and his law degree from West Virginia University in 1974.
He has been involved for over 30 years with the Boy Scouts of America and was District Chairman of the Mingo-Pike District and District Chairman of the Chief Cornstalk District. He has served on the Board of the Buckskin Council and received the Silver Beaver Award, the highest volunteer award in scouting.
Maynard is a member of the American Judge's Association, the American Bar Association, the American Judicature Society, the West Virginia Bar Association, a former Member of National District Attorney's Association, and a member of the Charleston Rotary Club and other fraternal organizations.