CHARLESTON – Gov. Jim Justice has appointed two circuit judges.
On March 6, Justice appointed Debra Scudiere of Morgantown as the new circuit judge in Monongalia County, filling the seat vacated by the January retirement of Russell Clawges.
On the same day, Justice also appointed Debra McLaughlin of Berkeley Springs as the new circuit judge in the 23rd Circuit, which includes Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties in the Eastern Panhandle. She fills the seat vacant by the January retirement of Christopher Wilkes.
A graduate of the West Virginia University College of Law, Scudiere previously served as President of the West Virginia State Bar and as President of the Southern Conference of Bar Presidents.
Prior to her appointment, Scudiere worked as a member of the law firm of Kay Casto & Chaney in the firm’s Morgantown office, practicing in the areas of litigation, mediation, and arbitration. Scudiere also taught a class in Pre-Trial Litigation at the WVU College of Law.
She also was chairwoman of the state Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission, which makes recommendations to the governor regarding judicial openings. She recused herself from discussions regarding this vacancy.
“I am very humbled by the request of the governor that I follow Judge Clawges on the bench,” Scudiere told The West Virginia Record. “Those will be big shoes to fill. But I will try very hard in every decision to serve the people of Monongalia County with fairness and honor.
McLaughlin has previous judicial experience, having served as a circuit judge from 2017 to 2018. Since then, she has served as the Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in Jefferson County. McLaughlin has practiced law in West Virginia since 1999. She served as the Prosecuting Attorney in Morgan County from 2002-2017.
The JVAC recommended three people – De'Andra Burton, Michael Simms and Scudiere – for the Monongalia opening. It recommended four names For the Eastern Panhandle position, the JVAC recommended four names – Stephen Groh, Joseph Kinser, Richard Stephens and McLaughlin – to the governor.
One circuit judge position in Raleigh County remains open, more than six weeks after the JVAC recommended four names to Justice.
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 JVAC conducted interviews for that opening Jan. 23. That same day, it sent a list four recommendations Justice. On that list were Marie C. Bechtel, Darl Wesley Poling, Thomas G. Truman and Chip E. Williams.
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.
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 these 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.