CHARLESTON – A new year brings a new chief justice on the state Supreme Court.
Justice Brent Benjamin reclaimed the spot on Jan. 1, succeeding Justice Menis Ketchum. It will be the second year Benjamin has served as chief justice, first holding the position in 2009.
The chief justice is determined annually by a vote of the five justices. Traditionally, it rotates among the justices from year to year.
Benjamin was elected in 2004 to a 12-year term, defeating incumbent Warren McGraw.
A native of Mariette, Ohio, who graduated from The Ohio State University, Benjamin previously worked at Robinson and McElwee in Charleston.
Another change on the court for 2013 is Allen Loughry, who was elected in November and will replace the retired Thomas McHugh on the bench.
The court’s winter term begins Jan. 8.
Benjamin’s first term as chief justice was marked by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in his favor. He had refused to recuse himself from a $50 million appeal involving Massey Energy.
Harman Mining, which had won a $0 million award against Massey before it was struck down by the state Supreme Court, said Benjamin should not have been a part of the decision.
In the 2004 race between McGraw and Blankenship, then-Massey CEO Don Blankenship spent millions of dollars in advertising against McGraw.
In a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court said Benjamin did not have to recuse himself from the case.
“I am pleased that the Supreme Court has not questioned my ethics, my integrity, or my impartiality or propriety,” Benjamin said after the ruling.