CHARLESTON – A state Supreme Court law clerk says now is the time for him to make a run for his own seat on the bench.
Louis Palmer joined the race for one of two Supreme Court openings last month on the last filing day.
Now is the time to make a run," he said recently. "I have the experience that's needed for the job. I wanted to run when I got out of law school immediately. But at this point in my career, I've seen everything that can be seen. Now is the right time in terms of my intellectual and legal development."
Palmer has been a clerk at the Supreme Court since 1996. In that time, he said he has work for most, if not all, of the Justices that have served. But he did say he has worked extensively with current Justice Robin Jean Davis, who is seeking re-election.
Still, he stressed he's running his own race.
"I am in this campaign running on my duties," he said. "I'd like to ride her coattails to the sun if that would help me, but it's not fair to her."
Having never ran for public office, the 55-year-old Palmer said he doesn't quite know what to expect on the campaign trail.
"I'm a quiet person," he said. "I've done a lot of writing over the years. As a result of my love for writing, it didn't allow me to be active. Most people don't know me, but many have access to books I've published. I will overcome that lack of recognition. I know I can do it, and I will. It's going to be very difficult, but I have confidence."
Palmer said he had considered joining the race before Christmas.
"I mulled it over," he said. "But I decided to do it that Saturday."
Currently, in addition to his Supreme Court duties, Palmer is busy with the fifth edition of "Handbook on Evidence for West Virginia Lawyers." He is the co-author with Davis. Franklin D. Cleckley, a former state Supreme Court justice who happens to be Palmer's campaign chairman, is the original author.
"I decided to run in the midst of getting this edition out," he said with a chuckle. "My schedule is to get the book done by end of February. Then, I'll see if I can raise any money or grab any money that is on the table or even dropped on the floor. I won't get into high gear until then."
Still, he is excited about the campaign.
"It definitely will be a new experience for me," he said. "I enjoy talking and being around people. I think the campaign trail will allow that part of my personality to show for the first time since my teaching days."
A Georgia native, Palmer came to the Mountain State to attend the West Virginia University College of Law. He previously was a social worker in New York. He received his undergraduate degree in sociology from City University of New York in 1983.
After graduating from WVU in 1992, he entered private practice in Fairmont. He taught criminal justice classes as an adjunct professor at Fairmont State and West Virginia State. He took the law clerk job in 1996. During his time in private practice, he argued two cases before the state Supreme Court.
"My birth certificate says Savannah, Georgia, but my life certificate says West Virginia," Palmer said. "I've lived here longer than any other state in my life."
Palmer is married. His wife is an attorney for the West Virginia Division of Transportation.
His campaign website touts experience as his key qualification for the Court.
"Palmer has provided legal advice to the Court on thousands of cases," Cleckley says on the site. "He knows and understands the complexities of the constitutional issues that are brought to the Court, as well as being keenly sensitive to the real life human issues, such as whether grandparents should have visitation rights with their grandchildren.
"One of the most important attributes that anyone should have in order to sit on the Supreme Court, is the ability to read thousands of cases and treat each one as though it is the most important case ever to be decided. In Palmer's role as a member of the Court's law clerk staff for over 15 years, that has been his mental framework -- reviewing each case on its own merits. That is the commitment he will take to the Court as a Justice."
He also says his writing and analytical skills will help him on the bench.
"In addition to providing the Court with legal memorandums for thousands of cases, Palmer has authored and co-authored 14 books (this includes second and third editions) and four law review articles," Cleckley says. "Judicial opinions authored by Palmer will be clear, concise and analytically sound."