CHARLESTON – Beth Walker was sworn in Dec. 5 to become the 77th justice to serve on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
Walker doesn’t officially take office until Jan. 1, but the court always has the swearing-in ceremony before that to ensure a seamless transition of duties.
During her brief remarks at the ceremony, Walker said she chose Dec. 5 because it would have been her father’s 80th birthday. She said it was him who taught her to never give up on her dreams.
“I will never give up on my commitment to the rule of law,” she said to close her remarks before looking skyward and saying, “Happy birthday, dad.”
During the hour-long ceremony in the packed Supreme Court chambers, a handful of speakers talked about Walker, her legal career and the role of law in society.
“She has a keen legal mind and a wicked wit,” said Ricklin Brown, who worked with Walker for much of her career at Bowles Rice. “And, she’s a great writer.
“I value her advice, her work and her counsel.”
Walker won a seat on the Supreme Court during the state’s first non-partisan judicial elections in May. Those she defeated to earn the spot included current Justice Brent Benjamin and former Justice and state Attorney General Darrell McGraw.
When Walker takes office, West Virginia will have a female majority on the state Supreme Court for the first time. West Virginia will be one of 11 states whose top courts will have a majority of women. The other states will be Arkansas, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin.
Walker and fellow Justices Robin Jean Davis and Margaret Workman join eight circuit judges and 20 family court judges across the state.
“She will be the newest justice, but I’ll still be the youngest,” Justice Allen Loughry, who will be Chief Justice in 2017, reminded Walker. “But don’t worry. My parents always taught me to respect my elders.”
Brown, who followed Loughry at the microphone, said humor doesn’t always play well in the state Supreme Court chambers. That remark was met with a laugh from the standing-room-only crowd, many of whom were lawyers who have argued cases before the court.
“The (incoming) Chief Justice can get away with it because he has a black robe,” Brown said.
After Loughry officially swore her in, Walker donned her robe.
“How do you like my new outfit?” she asked those in attendance. “Justice Loughry told me last week that it would become real when I walked in here today and saw all of you in the crowd. Boy, was he right.”
Loughry also gave Walker one more piece of advice that was given to him by former Justice Thomas McHugh when Loughry took office in 2012.
“Move in and take charge.”