CHARLESTON – Gov. Jim Justice has appointed Darl W. Poling of Beckley to become Raleigh Circuit Court's newest judge.
The 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 has been filling Hutchison’s seat in Raleigh County.
“I’ve been impressed for a long time with Darl’s broad and diverse legal background,” the governor said. “He’s experienced in civil, criminal, abuse and neglect cases. He’s really done it all, and that experience is exactly what we need out of our circuit judges.”
The state Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission interviewed applicants for the Raleigh position on Jan. 23. The same day, it sent a list of four recommendations to the governor. On that list were Poling, Marie C. Bechtel, 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.”
Justice announced the Poling appointment 54 days after he received the list from the JVAC.
For the last 23 years, Poling has served as Beckley's Municipal Court Judge. And for the last 22 years, Poling also has worked as an attorney at his own law firm, Poling Law Office. Poling has practiced law since he graduated from the West Virginia University College of Law in 1988.
Poling, who graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School, also has worked as a high school baseball umpire since 2011. He also has served as Beckley Babe Ruth League President since 2008. He worked as a volunteer baseball and basketball coach for various local youth sports teams from 1998 to 2009.
Currently, the JVAC 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.
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.
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.
These appointments will serve through the 2020 primary election. The candidates who win those elections will serve the remainder of the unexpired term through 2024.