CHARLESTON – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin mentioned legal reform in his final State of the State address.
“We’ve reformed medical malpractice and improved our legal climate,” Tomblin, a Democrat, said as he listed some of his administration’s accomplishments. “We’ve enacted gradual reductions in our business and consumer taxes, and since I took office, we’ve saved employers and West Virginians more than $225 million.”
West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse praised Tomblin for mentioning it.
“Thanks to the strong bipartisan leadership of Governor Tomblin, Senate President (Bill) Cole, House Speaker (Tim) Armstead and the coalition of legislators who acted boldly to address a number of legal reforms, we took a major step last year in aligning our legal system the with rest of the nation," WV CALA Executive Director Roman Stauffer said in a statement.
In December, the American Tort Reform Association said West Virginia no longer is listed among at its “Judicial Hellholes” report.
“The bipartisan legal reforms passed last year will help make our state more attractive to the job creators Governor Tomblin spoke about,” Stauffer said. “They will help existing small businesses that are growing and may hire more employees.
"These reforms have resulted in savings and will provide more opportunities for West Virginians and a boost to our economy."
Stauffer said WV CALA will continue to push Tomblin and lawmakers on more legal reforms, most notably the creation of an intermediate court of appeals and a to codify the outside counsel policy implemented by Attorney General Patrick Morrisey during the legislative session.
“We anticipate Governor Tomblin and a bi-partisan coalition of legislators will consider additional legal reforms to address areas where West Virginia's legal system is an outlier,” Stauffer said. “Our state leaders and all West Virginians should take pride in the improved legal climate, but there are additional reforms, like the creation of an intermediate court, that are needed.”
Tomblin also mentioned juvenile justice reform that was started last year, and he mentioned Putnam County’s success there as he praised the county’s truancy diversion program, attendance director Jennifer Hodges and Circuit Judge Phillip Stowers,
“This legislative package provided $600,000 in new funding to establish truancy diversion programs in each county to offer early intervention to those students who need it,” Tomblin said. “Since launching its own program in 2010, Putnam County has seen significant improvements in overall student attendance and achievement. Truancy referrals have dropped in half and four-year graduation rates have increased from 78 percent to 90 percent during that same period.”