CHARLESTON – The more things change ...
During Margaret Workman's first stint as a state Supreme Court Justice, she served as Chief Justice twice in 1993 and 1997.
This year, she again is serving as Chief Justice for the first time since she was re-elected in 2008.
"I've discovered one thing," Workman said Wednesday after hearing oral arguments. "Being Chief Justice now is a lot more work than it used to be. There are a lot more administrative things."
But not everything has changed. Like her earlier times as Chief Justice, Workman wants to focus on an issue related to children and the courts.
Before, Workman fostered a relationship between the court system and domestic violence programs, and she visited many shelters to learn how the court system could be more effective in addressing domestic violence. She created the Task Force on Gender Fairness in the Courts and the Task Force on the Future of the Judiciary. She also formed the Broadwater Committee, which made reforms in the court system's response to children's issues and spearheaded the development of rules governing child abuse and neglect cases.
"This year, it's kind of a natural outgrowth of that," she said. "I want to try to learn more and focus more on what we can do to improve rehabilitative services for juveniles -- trying to do more programmatically and working with other branches of government as well on this.
"If you can intervene on a children's life and get him back on the straight and narrow, we might be able to save them from a life of crime."
Workman said she also wants to examine expanding juvenile and adult drug courts everywhere in the state.
"Everyone in this state knows someone whose lives have been touched by drug or substance abuse," she said.
But Workman admits that the court's work in 2011 is going to be different than ever before with the newly adopted revised Rules for Appellate Procedure.
"One of the biggest challenges is to help make a smooth transition to these new rules," she said. "It's a learning process for all of us. Looking at them on paper and living them out is two different things.
"As we go along, we have to learn how we can best get these rules into effect."
That means trying to follow some time standards during arguments and asking attorneys to cooperate with them on that.
"We aren't always going to be able to stick to the time frames, and there will be times when a Justice asks questions that pushes us over that allotted time," Workman said. "But we need to work toward some type of time guideline."
Workman said the transition of Chief Justice duties to her from Justice Robin Jean Davis was a smooth one. It also marked the first time in state history that a female Justice took over as Chief Justice from another female Justice.
"That's progress for us, for sure," Workman said. "I remember her as a young circuit judge. I appointed her to several cases. I probably work her out with that stuff. I kind of mentored her. Now, I'm learning a lot from her.
"I think she was more than eager to turn over the Chief Justice job to me."
Workman said all of the members of the Court make her job a joy.
"Everyone has a very cooperative attitude," she said. "Everybody wants to make it work. We have a high degree of collegiality.
"Everyone gets along very well. It makes a difference, for sure, if you have people who work together well."