CHARLESTON – Darrell McGraw doesn’t like retirement.
At 79, the longtime state Attorney General and former state Supreme Court justice is seeking another 12-year term on the court.
“We should always embrace our age,” McGraw said in an interview with The West Virginia Record. “And really, if we’re vigorous and capable, we should continue to serve our community.
“I don’t want to be illiterate, ill-informed, illogical or illiberal.”
McGraw, who was defeated while seeking a fifth term as Attorney General in 2012, said he and wife Jorea Marple aren’t ones to sit still.
“We tried a touch of the retirement business, and that’s just not our thing,” he said with a chuckle. “We find great satisfaction in work … work that benefits the community.”
He said that Wyoming County upbringing and the faith-based value system instilled in him there still carries him through life.
“One notion from that is to be concerned about our neighbors and do work for them when we can. I’m able to live up to that admonition,” McGraw said. “No one’s perfect in living up to a value system, but we all should try to do our best when we can. And I want to try to do that for my people, my state and for my country.
“Plus, physicians say I’ve got much life left in me.”
Since he left office, McGraw said he and Marple traveled.
“Our first experience was to visit my son’s condo in Miami,” he said. “We stayed there for four months. My wife didn’t particularly like living in Miami, so the next year we stayed at another location in Florida for a few months.
“We eventually sold our house on California Avenue near the state Capitol, and we moved to Greenbrier County. And now, we’re back here in Charleston.”
McGraw’s late entry into the state Supreme Court race – just hours before the filing deadline – was a surprise to most people in the state. But he said he is driven by a need to serve.
“To serve West Virginia is my calling, and my training is legal training,” he said. “So this is what I’ve chosen to do. In my rearing, we were taught to keep the faith. And keeping the faith involves working for the good of the community, working for others, doing good works.
“We believe it is our duty to do good works and, in my case, that takes the form of service. This is my calling. I have served since I was 17 when I enlisted in the United States Army.”
He said this campaign is different.
“It goes well, but it’s slow,” he said of life on the campaign trail. “The whole campaign this go-around seems slow. There is not nearly as much general campaign activity, it seems.
“But, I do like it. I like people, and I’m good at relating to them. I’m thankful for the opportunity to do this.”
All judicial elections in the state now non-partisan, and McGraw said that makes this race unlike any he’s been involved with in years past.
“It is different, but not all that different,” he said. “Candidates can show up at any meeting, including partisan events. I’ve been to meetings where there were Republicans or Democrats or both. I didn’t go to many Republican events before when I was seeking office.”
McGraw said the shortened window from the filing deadline to the primary election when judicial elections now are decided makes the process more streamlined.
“It’s more efficient, but it also may account as to why things aren’t as hectic,” he said.
Described by some as “one of the most stalwart Democrats in the state,” McGraw proudly wears the title. But he said it isn’t brought up on the campaign trail.
“Everyone who knows me at all knows I’m a Democrat, but I don’t trade on it in my campaign,” McGraw said. “I just discuss theoretical concepts of justice.”
However, McGraw said he listens to people’s thoughts about the Supreme Court.
“There are people who have concerns about the Supreme Court,” he said. “However, I don’t feel it’s within my purview to catalog their complaints.”
If victorious, McGraw said there are some court matters he wants to address.
“Take the drug courts, for example,” he said. “I think the first thing you need to consider is how we got to where we are now with the drug court system.
“As attorney general, I took part in the law enforcement of national enterprises that were involved in the marketing of addictive substances. We were successful in that to the tune of about $2 billion, and that number is still growing.
“Also, remember, the state Legislature passed a law to create day report centers, domestic violence shelters and other things like that. But there was no money to put into it. We, meaning the attorney general’s office, were able, with the help of legislative leadership, to fund these very things with the Purdue Pharma settlement. We funded those things as well as drug task forces.
“I expect to continue to be sensitive to drug rehabilitation programs for improving people’s lives. The worst things circuit judges have to deal with are neglected children in these homes. It’s a very serious problem, and some judges are looking at these types of cases a dozen times a day. The circuit judges are the ones dealing with this face to face. No action by the executive branch or Legislature can provide some refuge about that.”
McGraw said the system of recusal for Supreme Court justices also needs to be examined.
“There ought to be a better recusal process,” he said. “There really needs to be a process to remove a judge and not make it all personal with a judge. That way, a litigant can make a record, and the court itself decides if a judge should be disqualified when there is the potential for bias.”
However, McGraw acknowledges this isn’t the perfect solution.
“But, it’s a slippery slope deal,” he said. “It could lend itself to abuse, and litigants could attempt to use it for judge shopping. I think we could study other systems to see if they are viable for West Virginia.”
McGraw’s brother Warren also is a former Supreme Court justice who currently serves as a circuit judge in their native Wyoming County. Darrell McGraw said he and his brother rarely discuss court matters.
“We don’t talk much about it,” McGraw said. “It’s one of those jobs where you do what you need to do when you do it, and then you’re doing something else.
“However, he and I both are moved particularly by families and children in misery. We have had discussions about the problem with drugs and how the effects it has on children and families.”
McGraw is seeking the seat held by incumbent Justice Brent Benjamin, who defeated Warren McGraw in 2004. Others running are Morgantown attorney Beth Walker, former state legislator Bill Wooton and Clay County attorney Wayne King. The non-partisan election is May 10.