CHARLESTON – West Virginia could see a quick return to the Judicial Hellholes report if Darrell McGraw is elected to the state Supreme Court, according to a spokesman for the group that compiles the list.
“I’d tell Darrell not to embarrass himself,” said Darren McKinney, spokesman for the American Tort Reform Association, said Monday about McGraw’s filing to run for the court. “West Virginia voters already threw him out of office once. And since then, they have voted the trial lawyer majority out of the state Legislature.
“The only thing that stands between West Virginia and a return to our Judicial Hellholes list is a Supreme Court majority in bed – literally and figuratively – with the plaintiff’s bar.”
McGraw, who served as a Justice from 1976 to 1988 before a 20-year run as state Attorney General, filed for the non-partisan Supreme Court race on Jan. 30, the last day to file. The seat currently is occupied by Brent Benjamin, who defeated McGraw’s brother Warren in 2004 in a hotly contested race. Darrell McGraw, 79, lost the AG position in 2012 to Patrick Morrisey.
“Some voters might like a trial lawyer majority to undermine what lawmakers did last session and are doing this session,” McKinney said. “But, it seems kind of crazy to me.
“Now, Darrell’s not asking me for career advice. But with all of the cash he must have secreted away and buried in war chests, he clearly doesn’t need the money. The trial lawyers must know they have a weak candidate for the seat, and they made crazy old Darrell McGraw an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“I mean, he’s older than Bernie Sanders. Who wants a 79-year-old guy to reverse the progress West Virginia voters have insisted on during the last two election cycles? He’ll turn back the clock and bring more of what he and the trial attorneys already have wrought on West Virginia.”
Until this year, judicial elections in West Virginia were partisan. McGraw and his brother are Democrats, and Benjamin was elected as Republican. Because it now is non-partisan, the May 10 primary will serve as the general election for all judicial races. Others running for the bench are Benjamin, Morgantown attorney Beth Walker, former lawmaker Bill Wooton and Clay attorney Wayne King.
Another legal reform group already has spoken out against McGraw’s decision to seek a Supreme Court seat again.
“Unfortunately, former radical Attorney General Darrell McGraw has filed to be a candidate for Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia,” West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse Executive Director Roman Stauffer said Jan. 31. “We will make sure that West Virginia voters who rejected his candidacy in 2012 understand that his election to our high court would be a major setback and likely result in our state being labeled a ‘Judicial Hellhole’ once again.
“Voters across our state have twice rejected the McGraw family's radical and activist judicial philosophy. The new leaders of our state have worked in a bi-partisan manner to fix the notorious judicial labels that Darrell McGraw contributed to for decades. I'm confident that West Virginians will once again reject Darrell McGraw's candidacy and continue to move our state forward and into the legal mainstream.”
A group for the state’s trial lawyers – The West Virginia Association for Justice – does not comment on elections, according to Executive Director Beth White.
“As a nonprofit, voluntary bar association WVAJ does not comment on elections,” White said. “Our affiliated political action committee, LAWPAC, limits its endorsements to legislative races exclusively.
“We do not endorse in judicial races or the race for attorney general.”