CHARLESTON – During one week in January, state Supreme Court Justice Larry Starcher called Supreme Court candidate Menis Ketchum 11 times from his state-issued cell phone.
Last month, The West Virginia Record requested the telephone, fax and e-mail records for Starcher. Supreme Court officials complied with all of the records they are allowed and able to submit, meaning the records for Starcher's state cell phone and his office's fax machine.
The 11 calls occurred from Jan. 11 to Jan. 17. Also, there was a fax sent from Starcher's office to Ketchum's law firm on Feb. 11.
Both Starcher and Ketchum said Thursday that the phone calls primarily concerned how Ketchum might run his campaign.
"I have spoken with Mr. Ketchum about who he might ask to help with his campaign, or talk with in a given community," Starcher said in a statement to The Record.
Ketchum echoed that comment.
"People didn't know me that well outside Cabell and Wayne counties," Ketchum said. "I was asking him for names of people in specific communities that I might contact and meet to introduce myself."
Both men also acknowledged a long friendship.
"Menis Ketchum is a fine lawyer, and we have been good friends since law school," Starcher said in his statement.
"I was making sure that he (Starcher) was not going to run for re-election," Ketchum said. "He was my next-door neighbor in law school, and I did not want to run against a close friend."
The filing period to run for office was Jan. 14-26. Ketchum kicked off his campaign Dec. 12 during a press conference at the state Capitol, and he was the first Democratic candidate to file his candidacy papers for Supreme Court on Jan. 14.
"And actually, I went to several businessmen to get their support. I want the support of business. They said they were afraid Starcher would run and that I'd team up with Starcher against Spike. I was just making sure that Larry was not going to run."
Starcher also said he is not campaigning for Ketchum or any other Supreme Court candidate.
"There are other fine candidates as well as Mr. Ketchum," Starcher said. "I do think that the voters need to know about the problems the Court has been having, so they can make informed decisions.
"I have never discussed confidential Court cases or information with Mr. Ketchum. A check of Court records shows that neither Mr. Ketchum nor his law firm had any cases pending before the Court during this time."
Both Starcher and Ketchum said the fax was a copy of a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Republican Party of Minnesota vs. White.
That is a 2002 decision regarding the First Amendment rights of candidates for judicial office. In the 5-4 opinion, the Court ruled that Minnesota's requirement of judges not to discuss political issues was unconstitutional.
Ketchum has mentioned the opinion several times as he campaigns for one of two seats up for election this year.
Chief Justice Spike Maynard is running for re-election. In addition to Ketchum, former Justice Margaret Workman and West Virginia University law professor Bob Bastress are seeking the Democratic nominations in the May 13 primary. Charleston attorney Beth Walker is the only Republican to have filed.