Lawyers donating big money to judicial races

By Chris Dickerson | Oct 14, 2010





CHARLESTON -- Plaintiffs lawyers are throwing money at the race to fill a Kanawha Circuit Court seat.

In reviewing publicly available campaign finance reports, West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse found that nearly 45 percent of all large campaign contributions -- contributions greater than $250 -- in the race between Judge Carrie Webster and Dan Greear come from " personal injury lawyer special interests."

Richie Heath, executive director of WV CALA, said Webster's campaign has taken more than $60,000 from personal injury lawyer interests, which equals about 60 percent of all large contributions her campaign has received. Greear's campaign has received just $2,000 from plaintiffs lawyers, which is about 5 percent of his large contribution fundraising totals.

"One of the reasons West Virginia courts have a poor reputation for fairness is because personal injury lawyers contribute so heavily to judicial campaigns," Heath said. "When you see a judicial candidate accepting such large sums of money from one particular special interest group, it suggests the appearance of bias."

WV CALA's research -- which Heath said examined all contributions greater than $250, for which contributors must list their occupation and employer -- also shows that personal injury lawyer interests have shown an interest in the special election for West Virginia Supreme Court. Justice Thomas McHugh has received nearly $75,000 -- or roughly 40 percent of his large contributions -- from plaintiffs lawyer interests.

On the legislative front, Heath said personal injury lawyer interests have accounted for almost 10 percent of all large contributions to legislative candidates. House Speaker Rick Thompson leads the pack of legislative candidates, accepting nearly $100,000 in large contributions from plaintiffs lawyer interests.

"Every election year, personal injury lawyer interests spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to candidates who they expect will fight against much-needed legal reforms" Heath said. "This year is no exception. Personal injury lawyers are speaking with their checkbooks this election year -- they want to maintain the status quo, which means more lawsuits and fewer jobs for West Virginia."

For more information about the contributions or about WV CALA, visit

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