CHARLESTON – During a forum last Monday sponsored by the state's independent insurance agents, two of the candidates for Supreme Court had the opportunity to say where they stood on the issue of non-partisan election of judges.
On Feb. 18, four of five Supreme Court candidates -- Chief Justice Spike Maynard, former Justice Margaret Workman, WVU Law Professor Robert M. Bastress Jr. and Beth Walker -- attended a debate sponsored by the Independent Insurance Agents for West Virginia during its annual meeting at the Charleston Marriott. The fifth candidate, Huntington attorney Menis E. Ketchum, was unable to attend due to illness.
During the debate, which was moderated by MetroNews Talkline's Hobby Kercheval, the candidates were asked their position on the non-partisan election of judges. Both Workman and Walker gave qualified endorsements to the idea.
Elected to the bench three times, twice to Kanawha Circuit Court and once to the Supreme Court, Workman said, "I've struggled for this issue for years," and prefaced her remarks by saying "there is no perfect system for selecting judges."
Nevertheless, for the simple fact of shorting the time frame for elections, and taking out some of the money involved with it, Workman says become a supporter of non-partisan judicial elections
"Over the course of time, I've come around to believing that a non-partisan election may be a better system," Workman said.
Kercheval specifically asked Walker if she believed appointing judges would be better than even a non-partisan election. Though she hedged on the idea of judicial appointments saying it would require a constitutional amendment, Walker said non-partisan elections are not a bad idea.
"It does merit consideration of the fact that our Constitution permits the Legislature to have non-partisan election," Walker said.