CHARLESTON – Three circuit judge openings remain vacant, and the governor's deadline to fill one of them has passed.
The state Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission conducted interviews for an opening on the Raleigh Circuit Court bench Jan. 23. That same day, the JVAC sent a list four recommendations to Gov. Jim Justice. On that list were Marie C. Bechtel, Darl Wesley Poling, Thomas G. Truman and Chip E. Williams.
State code provides that “The Governor shall make the appointment to fill the vacancy ... within 30 days following the receipt of the list of qualified candidates or within the 30 days following the vacancy, whichever is later.”
The Raleigh County opening was created when Justice appointed lifelong friend John Hutchison to the state Supreme Court to fill former Justice Allen Loughry's seat. Retired judge Charles M. Vickers currently is filling Hutchison’s seat in Raleigh County until Justice appoints a replacement, according to a Dec. 28 order signed by former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Margaret Workman.
On Jan. 31, the JVAC conducted interviews for an opening on the Monongalia Circuit Court and another on the 23rd Circuit Court which covers Morgan, Jefferson and Berkeley counties in the Eastern Panhandle.
The commission send the governor three names – De'Andra Burton, Michael Simms and Debra Scudiere – for the Monongalia opening. The position is open because of the recent retirement of Circuit Judge Russell Clawges.
For the Eastern Panhandle position, the JVAC recommended four names – Stephen Groh, Joseph Kinser, Debra McLaughlin and Richard Stephens – to the governor for consideration. That position is vacant because of the recent retirement of Circuit Judge Chris Wilkes.
After the JVAC sends the governor a list of names it recommends for the vacancies, he can choose a name from the list or choose someone else.
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.