CHARLESTON – The state Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission is accepting applications for the pending McDowell Circuit Court judicial vacancy.
Current Judge Booker T. Stephens has announced his retirement, effective May 31.
Stephens, 74, has been a circuit judge for 34 years. He was elected to the bench in 1984 and re-elected in 1992, 2000, 2008, and 2016.
“I think it’s really time for me to go and do something else,” he said. “I’ve been here a long time, and enjoyed it. We did some great things here. It’s time for someone else and for me to ride off into the sunset and do other things.”
The JVAC deadline for application and submittal of letters of recommendation is March 27. Interviews will take place April 4 in Charleston. Applications and letters of recommendation will not be considered if received after the deadlines outlined above. Both must be submitted to: Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission, c/o Brian Abraham, General Counsel, Office of the Governor, 1900 Kanawha Boulevard, East, Charleston, West Virginia 25305.
On March 6, Gov. Jim Justice appointed two women to circuit judge positions. Debra Scudiere of Morgantown was named the new circuit judge in Monongalia County, filling the seat vacated by the January retirement of Russell Clawges. And Debra McLaughlin of Berkeley Springs was named 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.
One circuit judge position in Raleigh County remains open, more than seven 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 four 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.