CHARLESTON – Gov. Jim Justice has appointed Raleigh Circuit Judge John Hutchison to the state Supreme Court.
Hutchison, who has been a circuit judge since 1995, is taking the seat of convicted former Justice Allen Loughry.
“I have known John Hutchison my entire life," Justice said Dec. 12. "He has been a Raleigh County Circuit Court Judge for 23 years and is one of the most conservative, respected jurists in the state of West Virginia. He has served on the state’s Mass Litigation panel since 1997.
"I spoke with some judges prior to making this appointment, and they encouradged me to appoint a circuit judge to this position. I’m very pleased to appoint Judge Hutchison to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals."
On Dec. 11, the staet Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission sent the governor a list of five people it recommends for the opening on the state Supreme Court.
Those five, in alphabetical order, were: Robert Frank, Hutchison, Jim Rowe, Mark Sorsaia and Joanna Tabit.
The JVAC interviewed 15 people Dec. 11 for the position. Seventeen had applied, but two (Charleston attorneys Greg Chiartas and Rusty Webb) withdrew their names for consideration before the interviews. They applied for the vacancy created by the resignation of convicted former Justice Allen Loughry.
In addition to those already mentioned, those who applied are Robert Carlton of Charleston, Bradley Crouser of Charleston, Jim Douglas of Charleston, Lee Feinberg of Charleston, Brendan Long of Scott Depot, Louis Palmer of Charleston, William Schwartz of Charleston, Harry Taylor of Charleston, Joseph Wallace of Elkins and Bill Wooton of Beckley.
Six of those applicants – Carlton, Douglas, Frank, Long, Schwartz and Tabit – were on the ballot last month for two seats on the bench. Tim Armstead and Evan Jenkins, both of whom already had been appointed by Gov. Jim Justice, won those elections.
Hutchison and Tabit currently are circuit judges in Raleigh and Kanawha Counties, respectively. Hutchison is a longtime personal friend of Justice who delivered the oath of office when Justice was inaugurated in 2017. Tabit received the highest number of votes behind Jenkins and Armstead in last month's Supreme Court races.
Douglas is a Kanawha Family Court Judge. Rowe is a former circuit judge in Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties who is working as Senior Status Judge in Nicholas County. Sorsaia is Putnam County's Prosecuting Attorney. Wooton is a former legislator.
Hutchison will serve until the next judicial election, which is May 2020. The person who wins that race will serve until December 2024, which is when Loughry's term was scheduled to end.
Earlier this year, the JVAC conducted interviews to fill the Supreme Court seats of retired Justices Menis Ketchum and Robin Jean Davis. In August, the commission interviewed a total of 13 candidates for the two vacancies on the court. They recommended a total of nine names (four for one vacancy, and five for the other) to Gov. Jim Justice.
Hutchison was born in and raised in Beckley. He has a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Davis and Elkins College and a law degree from West Virginia University College of Law.
From 1972 to 1974 he was assistant basketball coach at Davis and Elkins College and from 1974 to 1997 he taught and coached in Raleigh County Schools. From 1975 to 1977 he served as dorm director and assistant basketball coach at Concord University.
Hutchison practiced law in Raleigh County for 10 years with Gorman, Sheatsley and Hutchison. In 1991, he opened the Nationwide Insurance West Virginia Trial Division Office and served as its managing trial attorney for four years.
Then‐Gov. Gaston Caperton appointed him as a Raleigh Circuit Judge in 1995. He was elected in 1996 and re‐elected in 2000 and 2008. He is a member of the Supreme Court’s Mass Litigation Panel and was a judicial representative on the Commission to Study Residential Placement of Children.
Hutchison has been appointed several times to sit on the Supreme Court when a justice has been recused. He has been treasurer, secretary, vice president, and president of the West Virginia Judicial Association and he has been chairman and vice‐chairman of the association’s legislative and pensions committees.
Hutchison is married to Victoria Lagowski Hutchison, and they have two children and two grandchildren.
Loughry resigned last month after he was found guilty on 11 federal felony counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, witness tampering and lying to federal agents. He faced impeachment before his resignation, and he still must go before the state Judicial Investigation Commission to answer charges of 32 counts of misconduct.
His federal sentencing is scheduled for January.