Cohen

Ketchum

By STEVE COHEN

CHARLESTON -- In his campaign for the West Virginia Supreme Court, about all that most voters could well know about Menis Ketchum is that his last name is similar to that of the red-colored sauce served with your burger and fries.

Seriously, his television ads say nothing else about him. Nothing more than he is a candidate for the highest court in the state and has a catchy name.

This is how our justices earn their seats on the bench? Are voters content to know anything more about him?

Like the fact that, as a 30-year TV advertising personal injury lawyer, Ketchum took more campaign cash in large contributions from personal injury lawyers than any other court candidate, and more than twice that of the next closest recipient of such money in the race.

Like the fact that he may have no real convictions. Take, for instance, his telling a Charleston newspaper that he thinks lawyer advertising on TV is "awful," that the ads have turned lawyers into "used car salesmen," even though he hustles personal injury lawsuit clients on the tube because "Charleston lawyers are taking my business," and besides "I have to eat."

Like the fact that facts don't always matter. He told the Associated Press he argued more cases before the Supreme Court than all but one other lawyer, yet research showed that was a gross exaggeration. He told a business group this summer that more than half of his clients before the Supreme Court were defendants, "for business." In reality, less than a third have been, and a majority have been on the plaintiff side.

How confused voters must be that Ketchum said vacation photos of the Chief Justice threaten the integrity of the court," but later he said release of the pictures "doesn't bother me."

What are voters to think when he tells a medical group his judicial philosophy is "conservative," but tells a statewide newspaper it is "moderate."

Surely the electorate is perplexed over Menis Ketchum's conflicting explanations for a litany of phone calls early in the campaign between him and "his friend" Justice Larry Starcher.

And on the subject of television ads, remember the spots Ketchum ran in the primary featuring uniformed police officers? When informed they were illegal he, a judicial candidate, said he "didn't know the law," and vowed to yank them, yet they continued to air.

At least his latest spots steer clear of legal issues that, heaven forbid, might matter to West Virginia voters in choosing a Supreme Court justice. Instead West Virginians are portrayed as being so simple as to only understand that Ketchum sounds like the name of a common sauce.

But on Election Day it may well be the verdict of Mountain State voters that we are not simple dunderheads.

Cohen is exeutive director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, www.wvcala.com.




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