CHARLESTON – The Honorable Ronald E. Wilson, who has served as a judge for West Virginia’s First Judicial Circuit Court for more than 30 years, has been named Judge of the Year by the West Virginia Association for Justice, while mass litigation manager Kimberly R. Fields of the state Supreme Court is the organization's clerk of the year.
They received the awards at the association’s annual convention in Charleston on June 6. The award has been presented by WVAJ to both state and federal court judges in West Virginia since 1985.
“The West Virginia Association for Justice is honored to present Judge Ronald Wilson with the 2013 Judge of the Year award,” said Scott Blass, president of the association. “For more than 30 years, Judge Wilson has fairly and judiciously served as a judge for West Virginia’s First Circuit Court. His service has garnered the respect of West Virginia attorneys, his peers on the court and the citizens who have stood in his courtroom.”
“I am pleased to be honored by the West Virginia Association for Justice, which was founded by the inimitable, late Stanley Preiser. He was the best darn lawyer in West Virginia and one of the best in the United States. I was impressed by Stanley and his determination to seek justice for all he touched,” Wilson said. “The association fights for the ‘little guy.’ It also has the goal of training good lawyers to protect victimized people who need the civil justice system to protect their rights. When I started to practice law, it was the organization’s continuing legal education programs that provided my real legal education.”
“The jury system is at the heart of the many freedoms that exist in this country. I am pleased with the role that I have played in the civil justice system. I thank Stanley Preiser for inspiring me, and I thank the West Virginia Association for Justice for this honor and the organization’s continued commitment to the jury system, and to the training of good lawyers who make sure that the word ‘justice’ has the same meaning for every West Virginian, both the poor and the rich.”
Wilson has garnered national recognition for his work on West Virginia asbestos cases. In 2004, Wilson was appointed by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals to head the Mass Litigation Panel to handle those cases. Per the order creating the MLP, it was responsible for the development and implementation of “case management and trial methodologies for mass litigation and to fairly and expeditiously dispose of civil litigation.”
Wilson worked with lawyers representing both plaintiffs and defendants to establish the state’s Case Management Order. Through the CMO, Wilson manages and presides over three trials a year, alternating between Wheeling and Charleston, with 20 plaintiffs in each. The CMO has a system to prioritize cases, ensuring that living mesothelioma and lung cancer patients have their cases first. The West Virginia system is a model for other states. This year, Wilson served as a visiting faculty member at Harvard Medical School for the course, Current Concepts and Controversies in Asbestos-Related Disease.
Wilson was appointed judge for the First Judicial Circuit in 1981 by Gov. Jay Rockefeller. He was elected to the seat the following year, and was re-elected in 1984, 1992, 2000 and 2008. Wilson is the chairperson of the West Virginia Judicial Association. In 2012, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals appointed Judge Wilson to chair the committees responsible for revising the West Virginia Judicial canons and updating the West Virginia Rules of Evidence. In 2004, he was named a Foundation Fellow by the West Virginia Bar Foundation. Wilson earned a B.A. from American University and is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Law.
The award was presented to Fields by WVAJ President-Elect Anthony Majestro.
“Although not a clerk in a traditional sense, Kim Fields has done extraordinary work in her role as West Virginia’s Mass Litigation Manager. She coordinates the mass litigation process, managing the numerous claims, files, parties and attorneys. Over the years since her appointment, the Panel has successfully handled claims involving everything from asbestos litigation to mass damages from floods,” Majestro said.
“Because of her oversight and diligence, these cases are handled efficiently in West Virginia’s court system, and our state is one of the national leaders in how these cases are managed.”
“I would like to thank the West Virginia Association for Justice for presenting me with this year’s Clerk of the Year Award. I was surprised when I received the call because I am not a court clerk, but when it was explained that I was selected because of my work as Mass Litigation Manager, I was flattered and honored,” Fields said.
“The award recognizes my work on behalf of the West Virginia legal community. That work would not be possible without the commitment and continuing support of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and the members of the Mass Litigation Panel. Because of their vision, dedication, and hard work West Virginia is on the cutting edge in managing mass litigation.”
Fields was hired by the Supreme Court in 2008 as Mass Litigation Manager. In that role, she assists the seven circuit court judges assigned to the state’s Mass Litigation Panel with centralization and management of all mass litigation cases pending in West Virginia.
Prior to her position with the court, Fields was in private practice for nearly 19 years, with a primary focus in complex litigation. She has prior experience in mass litigation including asbestos personal injury, breast implant and diet drug litigation. She earned her undergraduate degree from Marshall University, and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina School of Law at Chapel Hill.
The West Virginia Association for Justice represents nearly 500 plaintiffs attorneys throughout West Virginia and in surrounding states. WVAJ members are committed to preserving and improving our civil justice system in order to ensure that any person who is injured by the misconduct and negligence of others can obtain justice in America’s courtrooms. WVAJ members work to protect West Virginia families by promoting safe workplaces, safe products, quality healthcare, a clean environment and corporate responsibility.