CHARLESTON – Gov. Joe Manchin has appointed Cabell Circuit Judge candidate Jane Hustead to the position early.

Hustead, a Democrat, won the May primary and is unopposed in the Nov. 4 election. The seat is open because Judge John Cummings is retiring. She is Cabell County's first female circuit judge.

"Jane Hustead is an excellent candidate for the Sixth Judicial Circuit who has dedicated most of her career working for the judicial system and the people of Cabell County," Manchin said.

The governor added that Hustead's appointment will also help prevent further delays in the court system.

"It just seems like the right thing to do," Manchin said Wednesday before the paperwork was finalized. "It seems fair to the citizens of Cabell County to do this, to give this candidate a two-month jumpstart on the bench."

Hustead has been an assistant prosecuting attorney for Cabell County since 1977 and she is an officer with the West Virginia League of Women Voters. She received a bachelor's degree from Marshall University in 1973 and her law degree from West Virginia University in 1976. She worked for West Virginia Legal Services until joining the Cabell prosecutor's office.

"I deeply appreciate the governor's trust in this appointment and the opportunity this gives me to work with retiring Judge John Cummings before my own term begins in January 2009," Hustead said in a press release. "This will enable us to make a smoother transition in the caseload transfer and will be a valuable benefit to the citizens of Cabell County."

Earlier this month, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Spike Maynard had appointed Senior Status Judge Robert Chafin of Wayne County to temporarily take the seat after Judge Alfred Ferguson announced his plans to retire for a few months before returning to his seat in January upon his re-election. Ferguson is unopposed in the circuit's Division I race, as Hustead is in Division 3.

Manchin said he had no plans to name a permanent two-month replacement in Kanawha County, which was in a similar situation after Judge Charles King announced his plans to retire as well. King has said he isn't sure if he'll return to the bench in January after his unopposed re-election bid. Maynard already has appointed Senior Status Judge Herman Canady Jr. to fill in there for now.

Hustead, 55, has a private practice and is an assistant prosecutor in Cabell County.

A loophole in the judicial pension system is allowing King and Ferguson to retire, start receiving pension benefits and return to office in January. The loophole allows them to simultaneously collect pension benefits and a salary for the upcoming term.

Manchin has said he and his staff will work to fix that loophole when the Legislature convenes in February.

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