Benjamin, Supreme Court ready to start 2009 term

By Chris Dickerson | Jan 9, 2009


CHARLESTON -- The state Supreme Court will begin the Spring 2009 term with a little pomp and circumstance.

Before the Justices begin hearing cases on the afternoon of Jan. 13, they will be in chambers that morning for a ceremonial opening of the term.

New Chief Justice Brent Benjamin will call the Court to order at 10 a.m. That will be followed by a presentation of colors by Marshall University's John Marshall Fife & Drum Corps.

After that, new Justices Margaret Workman and Menis Ketchum will be welcomed to the Court. Then, the Court will take time to honor judges and lawyers who passed away in 2008.

All of the pageantry is something that is important to new Chief Justice Brent Benjamin.

"Having the Marshall University group that is nice," Benjamin said. "First, it's an educational institution, which is important to me. Secondly, John Marshall is considered by many to be the father of American jurisprudence. So I think it's fitting that we begin with something that is colonial, tied to John Marshall and tied to the higher education system of our state."

Benjamin said the Court also needs to take the time to honor members of the state Bar lost last year.

"It's so important for the court system and lawyers of the state to stress the importance of professionalism," Benjamin said. "Most people don't realize that lawyers are officers of the court. The justice system doesn't operate with just justices. There are the lawyers, the administrative staffs … a lot of people.

"It's only appropriate that we recognize as many of the judges and lawyers who passed away as we can."

Benjamin said he plans to give offer brief remarks about the upcoming year for the Court and talk about the Access to Justice initiative before the end of the ceremony.

After a recess, the justices will return the bench to begin hearing the first cases of 2009 at 2 p.m.

"So far, it's been great," Benjamin said of the process of beginning the new term, his first as Chief Justice. "I can't wait to get under way and pick up some steam. It's a lot of work, but it is going to be fun."

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