CHARLESTON – West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Justice Menis Ketchum has been named as the new vice president of the Conference of Chief Justices.
In his new role with the group, which is an association of the top jurists of the states and territories, Ketchum said wants to solve the problems surrounding jail time given for offenders who can’t afford bail for minor non-violent crimes.
“A lot of times poor people that have committed a non-violent minor crime are put in jail until the trial because they cannot afford bail," Ketchum told The West Virginia Record. "Most of it is bankrupting our local county commissions because people prior to trial or prior to conviction are kept in jail for non-violent minor crimes, so they could be in jail for six or eight months at the expense of the county awaiting trial. I want to try and use the Conference of Chief Justices to support nationwide legislation to eliminate this problem.”
Beyond the bail affordability issue, Ketchum wants to find a way to collect on the growing number of fines owed by motorists, which is an issue in West Virginia.
“The other thing I want to work on is West Virginia’s $30 (million) to $40 million of uncollected fines for drivers of motor vehicles,” said Ketchum. “You can’t put an indigent person in jail for non-payment, and I want to work with the Conference to come up with a system to eliminate this problem and try and collect this money that is owed to the state of West Virginia.”
Ketchum is the first chief justice from West Virginia named to the position of vice president of the Conference of Chief Justices in the board's 67-year history. Typically, chief justices from larger states are named to the honor.
“It will be prestigious for the judicial system in West Virginia,” Ketchum said. “It means a lot to me because the chief justices of the 50 other states thought enough to put me in the position of vice president and on the board of directors, and usually these positions are given to chief justices from large states.”
Ketchum succeeds Nevada Supreme Court Justice James W. Hardesty and began his position of vice president of the Conference of Chief Justices in late July. He was elected to a 12-year term on the Supreme Court of Appeals in 2008 and has served as chief justice in 2012 and again this year.
The Conference of Chief Justices works to promote the effectiveness and interests of the states' judicial system through policies and educational programs – all designed to improve the operations of courts. A chief justice from every state is represented on the Conference as well as the District of Columbia and all U.S. territories. The Conference of Chief Justices also is a representative of the state courts in Congress and with federal agencies.
Ketchum was born in the Huntington area and went to law school at the West Virginia University College of Law. He worked with his father at the law firm Greene, Ketchum & Baker until he was elected to the court.