CHARLESTON - Justice Joseph Albright announced today he would no longer perform his duties at the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals for the current term because of health reasons.
That leaves Chief Justice Spike Maynard with the task of appointing a replacement, which he is expected to do in the next few days. Albright is still recovering from a July surgery.
Albright had an esophagectomy and wanted to participate from his hospital bed, watching the streaming video of arguments the Supreme Court's site offers.
"While my powers of analysis are fully intact, it appears to be preferable for me to concentrate on the healing of my body and the restoration of my physical abilities," he said in a statement.
Albright indicated that he intends to resume full judicial duties at the Court in January 2009. He was elected to the state's highest court in November 2000 for a full 12-year term.
A court information officer said cases set for argument this term will not be delayed.
"All opinions in those cases will be issued before this term of court ends on Nov. 21, 2008," a statement said.
The court's docket was packed with oral arguments today and Wednesday, until Maynard informed observers of the postponement.
"The arguments that would have been heard this afternoon will be heard on Sept. 23 in Charleston. The court will not go to Marshall University that day as planned. Cases scheduled for tomorrow's motion docket and argument docket will be rescheduled."
Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury said Albright's decision should not be viewed as a sign his health is getting worse.
"From all reports, he's doing better and getting stronger. He's doing as well as one could expect," Canterbury said.
"I don't think anyone believes his health has turned for the worse. It's my understanding that he's out of the (Intensive Care Unit) and in a regular hospital room.
"His mind is strong and clear-headed -- that's not the issue. His body just isn't cooperating."
Maynard will have to appoint a circuit judge or senior status judge to take Albright's place. Should he choose a circuit judge, he would have to find a replacement to take on that judge's caseload.
The governor's office only appoints a judge or justice if one dies or resigns in office.