CHARLESTON – Kanawha County Commission President W. Kent
Carper has been reappointed to the Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission by West
Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for an additional six-year term.
The Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission interviews and
recommends judicial candidates to the governor for appointment to vacancies
throughout the judicial circuits in the state of West Virginia.
“It’s purely advisory,” Carper told The West Virginia Record. “The governor makes the decision [about which
judge to appoint].”
Carper said the commission was formed more than six years
ago after concerns were raised about the neutrality of the judicial approval
process. He said the West Virginia Legislature created a statutory commission with
eight commission members appointed by the governor for six-year terms.
Although Carper said he definitely believes judges should
be elected by the people they serve, he said the commission plays an important
role in bridging the gap between when a vacancy comes open and the next
election. As a result, Carper said he is happy to be reappointed for another
term on the commission.
“I’m very humbled,” Carper said. “It’s a very important
Carper said the commission interviews candidates and makes
recommendations to the governor to fill vacancies for circuit court and family
court judges. In addition, he said, the commission would be charged with making
a recommendation for a state Supreme Court justice vacancy if necessary.
“I look forward to continuing to work with the full Judicial
Vacancy Advisory Commission and continuing to make recommendations to the governor
and future governor on these very important appointments,” Carper said.
Carper said the commission makes about three to five
appointments per year. He estimated that the commission has interviewed 100 to
150 people to fill vacancies in its more than six years in existence.
Carper said it is important for whoever wants to be a judge to
go through a very strict process to gain a seat on the bench until the
“We wrote very tough vetting requirements,” Carper said.
Carper is also proud of the work done by the commission to
“The vast majority of recommendations have been accepted by
the governor,” he said.
In addition, he said, the vast majority of judges recommended
by the commission have gone on to be elected to the bench after the term that
they are appointed to serve out is over.
Carper has been a member of the Kanawha County Commission
since 1996. He has been a practicing attorney for 37 years and is currently a
partner with the firm Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee and Deitzler, PLLC.
Carper’s background goes beyond legal work and community
service. According to a profile on the firm’s website, he is also a former
paramedic and former Charleston chief of police. Carper also formerly served as
a Kanawha County assistant prosecuting attorney.
Carper is also a ham radio operator and volunteers his
services in that capacity in emergencies.
Carper’s legal practice focuses mainly on personal injury
litigation but he has done criminal defense work as well.