CHARLESTON -- Charleston native Richie Heath has been named the new executive director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.
Heath replaces Steve Cohen, who has held that role since 2005, effective May 1.
Heath, who has been field director of the statewide organization since 2004, says he is concerned West Virginia's "brain drain" is largely a product of the state's "broken lawsuit system."
"Study after study places West Virginia last for growing jobs because some greedy personal injury lawyers abuse the system," Heath said. "It is robbing the future of our state's most precious natural resource, our young people, and I've been troubled by seeing so many friends and acquaintances drawn to other states for better opportunities over the years."
Heath pointed to the Chesapeake Energy decision earlier this year to cancel a planned regional headquarters and gut its West Virginia work force because of the legal climate.
"This is a prime example of why employers create jobs elsewhere -- and one would think a wake-up call for our state leaders to reform our unbalanced legal system," said Heath.
WV CALA has called Gov. Joe Manchin's plans for a review of the legal system a positive step if it leads to real reforms. Manchin's review is focused in part on nonpartisan judicial elections and modernizing the legal appeals process.
Heath noted that WV CALA will continue to fight for a sunshine law to hold the attorney general accountable for hiring campaign contributors to no-bid contracts. His organization will also demand more oversight and control of the way the attorney general holds and distributes lawsuit settlement proceeds.
A graduate of Hampden-Sydney College, Heath holds a law degree from Wake Forest University.
WV CALA has 33,000 members across West Virginia.