WELCH — The West Virginia Association for Justice has named its Judge of the Year, honoring a McDowell Circuit Court judge.
Eighth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Booker Stephens was named Judge of the Year by the WVAJ at the annual WVAJ convention. The award was given to Stephens by WVAJ President Paige Flanigan and Past President Anthony Majestro.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Judge Stephens told The West Virginia Record. “I’m happy to receive it. Notwithstanding, I think there’s several judges in this state who should be honored the same way I’ve been honored. We have a very good judicial system in this state.”
Stephen has been on the bench since 1984, being reelected each time. He has made it his mission to educate the residents of West Virginia about the judicial system and the rights they have under the law and in the courtroom.
When Stephen was asked about what his biggest achievement in his career has been, he immediately said it was being elected to the Circuit Court for so many years, serving continuously since 1984.
“I would say being elected to Circuit Court judge for this number of years has been a tremendous honor for people to have that kind of faith and confidence in you continuously,” Stephens said. “The people of this county have elected me continuously since 1984. I owe a great deal to them. I’ve always tried to carry myself in such a way that they’d be proud of what they have done for me.”
Stephens became a Circuit Court judge at the early age of 39, after practicing law in Welch. He was fascinated by the legal profession at a young age, going to watch court proceedings and deciding that was what he wanted to do early on. Becoming a judge was part of a dream for Stephens as it is for most lawyers.
“I think that it’s every lawyers ultimate dream to become a judge,” Stephens said. “You work as a lawyer and the judgeship is the next step up so to speak. I became a judge at an early age. I only practiced law for 12 years and was elected in 1984. I was still a very young man at the age of 39 years’ old.”
Prior to becoming Circuit Court judge, Stephens was elected to represent McDowell County in the West Virginia House of Delegates.
Regarding how Stephen’s wants his legacy to be remembered, he referenced a bible verse that he has lived by for years. “I’m from the old school,” Stephens said. “I rely on my faith and the bible quite a bit. There’s a little passage from the book of Micah that I’ve stood on for all of these years. It’s a little passage that says something like, 'To do justice, to love mercy and to walk calmly with thy God.' ”
Stephens was also named WVAJ’s Judge of the Year in 1993 and received the association’s Caplan Award for lifetime achievement toward the service of law in West Virginia. He is a graduate from the West Virginia State University and Howard University School of Law.