CHARLESTON -- The state Supreme Court has a new administrative director.
On Jan. 4, the court issued a press release saying former Circuit Judge Gary Johnson is the interim administrative director, replacing former Administrative Director Steve Canterbury. No other details about Canterbury's departure were immediately available, and a spokeswoman for the Supreme Court said none of the Justices would be commenting on the matter.
General Administrative Counsel Kirk Brandfass also was relieve of his duties on Jan. 4.
“I’m delighted Gary Johnson has agreed to be the interim administrative leader of the West Virginia court system at this time,” Chief Justice Allen Loughry said in the statement. “He has long been a leader among circuit judges and has served in many capacities on numerous committees dedicated to improving the entire court system on behalf of the people of West Virginia.”
Johnson said he is eager to begin the job.
“I want to thank the court for the confidence it has shown in me," he said in a statement. "I look forward to the challenge and hope to be able to work with the Justices of the Supreme Court, Circuit Court Judges, Family Court Judges and Magistrates to make our court system responsive and efficient.”
Just last year, Canterbury was selected to be the next president of the Conference of State Court Administrators. His term was scheduled to begin in August 2017.
Johnson was the only Circuit Judge in Nicholas County since 1992. He lost in the election this spring, and his term ended Dec. 31. Johnson has served as chairman of the West Virginia Court Improvement Program Oversight Board since 2001. He also was a member of the Supreme Court’s Juvenile Justice Commission, the 2014 Governor’s Intergovernmental Task Force on Juvenile Justice, and the Commission to Study the Residential Placement of Children. As Chairman of the Court Improvement Program, he helped establish the first West Virginia University College of Law class on children and the law.
Johnson also is a past president of the West Virginia Judicial Association, past chairman of the Judicial Hearing Board, and is a former member of the Mass Litigation Panel. He has been appointed numerous times to sit on the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia in cases in which a justice was recused, including one appointment as Acting Chief Justice.
Johnson earned an undergraduate degree in history and political science in 1973 and a master’s degree in public administration in 1974, all from West Virginia University, before completing his law degree in 1980 at West Virginia University College of Law.
He operated a private law practice in Nicholas County from 1980 to 1985 and 1989 to 1993 and served as Richwood’s municipal judge from 1981 to 1985. He was elected Nicholas County prosecutor in 1985 and served in that position for four years.
A father of five, Johnson resides in Richwood with his wife, Susan.
Canterbury previously was the executive director of the state jail authority, which built six of the state’s 10 regional jails during his tenure, as well as the first women’s prison and most of the state’s juvenile facilities.
Canterbury has been a member of COSCA since 2005 and has been an active member since 2007. He has been on the Board of Directors since 2012, the first West Virginian to do so. He also is the first West Virginian to be elected to the presidential succession.