CHARLESTON – It’s just a few weeks into his second stint as chief justice, but Menis Ketchum already has had a busy year.
The justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals already have ruled in a case that determined the balance of the state Senate. He’s had to watch the weather to decide whether to keep the court offices open through winter storm Jonas. He’s had to prepare a budget report for both houses of the state Legislature.
And that’s on top of the day-to-day functioning of the state court system and hearing the Supreme Court’s usual workload of cases.
“My main function, as chief justice, is for the court to continue to issue a written opinion in every case in a timely manner,” Ketchum said. “The court is up to date on all of its cases, but I would like to make the process even more speedy, if possible.”
He also wants to examine the state Supreme Court’s $143 million budget. During the Court’s recent budget hearings with state legislative committees, Ketchum suggested repealing three bills that would cut the budget by about $10 million.
“I want to get through the budget with a fine-tooth comb to see where we can cut expenses because the state appears to be broke,” Ketchum said with his trademark bluntness. “No amount will be too small to cut.”
He also has another project he plans to unveil this spring.
“I’ve been working on a set of pattern jury instructions in civil cases for the last five years,” Ketchum said. “These are patterned instructions to help judges and trial lawyers in the instruction of juries.
“I intend to get the book containing the instructions published immediately and get them to the lawyers in May. They contain instructions on 15 topics of civil law.”
Also, as chief justice, Ketchum has to handle any problems that arise.
“They’re lined up when I get here, and they’re lined up when I leave,” he said with a laugh.
Ketchum previously served as Chief Justice in 2012. He was elected to a full 12-year term in 2008.
He was born in 1943 in Huntington and raised in Wayne County. He attended Ohio University, where he played varsity baseball and was a member of the 1964 Mid-American Conference Championship team.
While in law school at West Virginia University College of Law, he was a contributing writer and associate editor of the West Virginia Law Review. He received his law degree in 1967 and returned to Huntington to join his father at the firm of Greene, Ketchum & Baker. He practiced at that firm and its successors, eventually becoming the senior partner, until his election to the court.
His law practice included insurance defense, personal injury and criminal defense. The Best Lawyers in America recognized him continuously from 1989 to 2008, and he was a member of the Leading Honoraries, the American College of Trial Lawyers and the American Board of Trial Advocates.
Throughout his legal career, he published legal articles and presented numerous continuing legal education seminars. Ketchum also served as a member of the Board of Governors of Marshall University from 2002 until his campaign for the Supreme Court, and served as Chairman or Vice-Chairman of the Board from 2003 until 2008.
At the time of his election, he served on the Boards of the Public Defender Corporations for the Sixth and Twenty-Fourth Judicial Circuits. He previously served on the Huntington Urban Renewal Authority, participated in the statewide Vision Shared Health Care Team, and the Governor's Mine Safety Task Force.
Ketchum has been married to the former Judy Varnum since 1966. They have three children – Kelli Morgan, Bert Ketchum, and Chad Ketchum – and six grandchildren.