CHARLESTON – Circuit Judge Jim Rowe is taking another run at the state Supreme Court.
Rowe, who is a circuit judge in Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties, said Tuesday he plans to file pre-candidacy papers later this week, possibly as soon as Wednesday. Rowe, 61, ran in 2004 but lost in the Democratic primary to then-Justice Warren McGraw.
"When I first took the oath of office as a circuit judge, I made the statement that I would try every day to reflect the values of the good people of Pocahontas and Greenbrier counties," Rowe said. "And I would try to do that statewide as well."
Rowe has been a circuit judge since Gov. Gaston Caperton appointed him in 1997. He was elected to serve an unexpired term in 1998 and re-elected in 2000 and 2008. Before that, Rowe served four terms in the House of Delegates, acting as Judiciary Committee chairman and House Majority Leader.
When asked about his decision to run, Rowe first commended retiring Justice Thomas McHugh.
"I believe it's going to be a real loss to lose Justice McHugh to retirement again," Rowe said. "Having retired once and agreed to come back, he's been a bulwark on the Court.
"Right now, the Court is a good one. It's well balanced, and they seem to have mutual respect for each other. It works. I can't agree with all of their decisions, but reasonable minds can disagree. I'd like to see it stay that way."
Rowe said he also would add another perspective of a circuit judge to the Supreme Court.
"There is one right now (Chief Justice Margaret Workman), but it's been a while since she was a circuit judge," Rowe said. "I'd bring that to the mix. It's my hope that I can continue the atmosphere of being able to sit down and argue and reason and come to decisions that will reflect the values of the good people of this state as well as protect people's rights and provide a sense of confidence among litigants and their attorneys that the opinions will be issued reasonably."
Rowe said the role of the court system has changed over the years.
"These days, the paradigm has shifted a lot in what we do," he said. "The courts are, in some ways, like social workers. We've are more involved, like we've become problem-solving courts. And I believe all of these things are important to make our system of government to work.
"We all have to understand what it takes to serve the needs of the people and to help create and attract jobs. We can't look down from a tower and rule without thinking about the consequences."
Rowe's 2004 primary campaign against McGraw was heated. McGraw was a well-known political figure in the state. He defeated Rowe 56 to 44 percent. Rowe's campaign accused McGraw of joining two other justices to make decisions that drove businesses and doctors out of state. Rowe made a late push, closing the gap between he and McGraw considerably in the final weeks. McGraw lost to Brent Benjamin in the general election later that year. He now is a circuit judge in Wyoming County.
Rowe said he learned lessons in that 2004 race.
"It's a big state, and it's hard to get around," he said. "It was a grinding, grueling experience. But it also was a good experience. I came to learn there are thousands of good folks in the state who want to see the state succeed. They have shared beliefs about what the state can be and should be.
"But I learned that you can't control how you're perceived. You can't control the negative advertising, the implications, the allegations. So, you've got to keep the right perspective. If you go after it, you have to understand what the lay of the land is and be willing to endure everything that comes with that."
Rowe said he realizes people see him as a conservative candidate.
"West Virginia is a conservative state," he said. "I do believe you need to approach decision-making with the principles of economics. And when someone wants to see a change, you have to be mindful of the ramifications.
"What we had a few years ago was a state Supreme Court that was doing too much result-oriented ruling. Which may be well and good for the litigants before the court, but what is the result on the state? Business expansion and development is all about risk-taking. If the attorneys in the state and the people who do business in the state have a confidence that rulings will be decided fairly and predictably, then they'll see it's a good place to do business."
Rowe was born in Bedford, Va., near Roanoke, and he grew up in West Virginia in Union and Franklin. After graduating from Franklin High School, he attended Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia before graduating from West Virginia University.
After serving in the Air Force, Rowe graduated from the George Mason University School of Law, which was known as the International School of Law in 1977. He was admitted to the West Virginia Bar in 1978. He and his wife live in Lewisburg and have two daughters.