West Virginia Record

Saturday, November 16, 2019

West Virginia judges moved by visit to nation's capital

By Dawn Brotherton | Jun 17, 2016

General court 03

CHARLESTON—The West Virginia Judicial Association spent part of its annual spring conference in Washington D.C, which helped them appreciate government and the heritage of the United States. 

Each year, the Judicial Association meets at various sites in West Virginia to interact with other judges outside the judiciary chambers. This year, the conference was to be held in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Because the conference was so close to the nation’s capital, the association invited the congressional delegation to the meeting.

“We wanted to have the opportunity to exchange ideas with our delegates," Judge Eric O’Briant told the West Virginia Record. "As the conference got closer, we were informed that Congress would still be in session during our conference."

O’Briant is the current president of the association and chief judge in the Seventh Judicial Circuit. He explained that instead of canceling the meeting between the judges and the delegation, the association was invited to tour the Capitol, the Senate Chambers and the Library of Congress. He wanted to make it clear that the taxpayers did not pay any of the expense for the trip to Washington. The association privately funded the trip.

“I’ve never met all of our representatives," he said. "(The trip) was a nice time to make contact with people that you don’t normally get to talk to. It was a very beneficial program. Some of the judges had never been to D.C. or hadn’t been since they went with their eighth grade class. There’s just a significance of going to the Capitol.”

O’Briant enjoys the conference every year, because it’s a way to connect with colleagues outside of the office. The hospitality of the Congressional Delegation made this year's conference especially noteworthy. The one disappointment was not having the ability to tour the Supreme Court. The court was not in session, nor was there time to make the appropriate security arrangements. 

Judge Robert Irons, lead judge of the 31st Circuit, told the West Virginia Record that he was especially impressed by the Library of Congress. 

“The architecture and exhibits (at the Library of Congress) were pretty interesting," he said. "We saw the exhibit of Thomas Jefferson’s original books… . It’s an important part of our heritage and history.”

“You get a real sense of history when you view the place where laws are created," he said. "We got to see the Senate in action, discussing a bill. Walking in the Rotunda was very moving. Knowing that famous people had once stood in these very places.”

Irons enjoyed meeting the senators and representatives of the Federal Legislative Delegation in Washington. He was impressed by how many free things there are to do in the nation’s capital that are significant to the history and heritage of the United States. This was not Irons first trip to Washington D.C. He was there as recently as last summer, but this trip was special to him because he was with a group of judges and got to see laws being made.

Irons and O’Briant made similar comments about how West Virginians should take advantage of their proximity to the capital and explore the history of the United States.

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West Virginia Judicial Association