CHARLESTON -- The new year brings several changes to courts across West Virginia.
As 2019 begins, Beth Walker becomes Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court. She takes over for Margaret Workman, who became Chief Justice in early 2018 when the justices voted to remove Allen Loughry from that position. Loughry will be sentenced on 11 counts later this month in federal court.
Also, former Raleigh Circuit Judge John Hutchison joins the state Supreme Court. He’ll be sworn in Jan. 4 by Walker. Hutchison was appointed to the court by Gov. Jim Justice.
Hutchison previously was appointed to the Raleigh County bench by former Gov. Gaston Caperton in 1995, and he was elected to that seat in 1996 and re-elected in 2000, 2008 and 2016.
As a circuit judge, Hutchison was a member of the Supreme Court’s Mass Litigation Panel and was a judicial representative on the Commission to Study Residential Placement of Children.
Retired judge Charles M. Vickers will fill Hutchison’s seat in Raleigh County until Justice appoints a replacement, according to a Dec. 28 order signed by Workman.
Two new circuit judges were sworn in Jan. 2.
Thomas Ewing became a Fayette Circuit Court judge. He takes the place of John Hatcher, who retired. Justice appointed Ewing last month.
A native of Fayette County, Ewing most recently served as an attorney with the Kay, Casto & Chaney law firm, including as managing member of the firm’s Fayetteville office from 2015 to 2018.
Shawn Nines was sworn in as a 19th Circuit judge as well. His position is one newly created last year by the Legislature. The circuit consists of Barbour and Taylor counties. Justice appointed Nines last month
Nines had been an attorney with his own practice in Grafton since 2007. He previously served as an assistant prosecuting attorney in either Taylor or Barbour counties since 2007, as well as city attorney for Grafton.
Both Ewing and Nines will serve through the 2020 primary election. The candidates who win those election will serve the remainder of the unexpired term through 2024.
And because of Hutchison’s appointment to the Supreme Court and the impending retirements of two other circuit judges, the state Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission is accepting applications immediately for three pending vacancies.
The first is Hutchison’s seat on in Raleigh County, the 10th Judicial Circuit. The deadline for application and submittal of letters of recommendation is Jan. 16. Interviews will take place Jan. 23.
The second opening is in Monongalia County to fill the seat left by the impending retirement of Judge Russell Clawges on the 17th Judicial Circuit. The deadline for application and submittal of letters of recommendation is Jan. 18, and interviews will be held Jan. 31 in Morgantown.
The third opening is in the Eastern Panhandle to fill the seat left by the impending retirement of Judge Chris Wilkes in the 23rd Judicial Circuit, which consists of Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties. The deadline for application and submittal of letters of recommendation is Jan. 18, and interviews will be held Jan. 31 in Morgantown.
For all three openings, applications and letters of recommendation will not be considered if received after the deadlines outlined above. Both must be submitted to Brian Abraham, General Counsel for the governor.
“It certainly is a busy month for the Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission,” JVAC Chairwoman Debra Scudiere told The West Virginia Record. “However, to a person, the members of the commission take their duties seriously and work together to set these application and interview schedules quickly.
“The commission’s goal is to assist the governor in putting qualified candidates on the bench in West Virginia, and I am always proud of our commissioners for putting a lot of good effort into achieving that goal.”
All three of those appointments also will serve through the 2020 primary election. The candidates who win those election will serve the remainder of the unexpired term through 2024.