CHARLESTON — Family Court Judge Jim Douglas believes there needs to be a judge on the state Supreme Court with substantial family law experience.
"Family law touches the lives of so many West Virginians," Douglas said in an interview with the West Virginia Record. "It is so important because you're more likely to be involved in something related to family court than civil court."
Douglas said the bulk of the sitting justices do not have a substantial family law background.
"It is so important that we re-establish the importance of family law on the court," Douglas said. "We also need to bring back practical experience."
Douglas said there are several on the court he believes don't have enough practical experience.
"Some of those on the court currently have never cross-examined a witness," Douglas said. "They have never argued before the Supreme Court."
Douglas said if he wins the election, he wants to make sure foster care and guardians ad litem have the proper funding they need.
"I'm an outsider," Douglas said. "I am my own person. I have no secrets. This court needs someone who will stop and say, 'but what about the kids?' Someone who will put the brakes on those with no family law experience."
Douglas is currently a family law judge in Kanawha County. He previously worked as an attorney practicing family law in Charleston. He has argued 40 cases before the Supreme Court—two of which are landmark cases.
Douglas has also been published in national law journals and teaches continuing legal education courses.
"My heart lies with family law," Douglas said. "Kids and family must come first, and the Supreme Court needs someone with that experience."
Douglas said it is time someone with substantial practical experience in family law is on the Supreme Court.
"Someone who will work to prioritize children and champion the need for guardians ad litem and will not be afraid to give voice to doing the right thing," Douglas said.
Douglas is running for the Division 2 seat, which is currently occupied by Justice Margaret Workman. Others running for the seat are Kanawha Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit, Putnam County Assistant Prosecutor Kris Raynes and former legislator and Supreme Court candidate Bill Wooton. Workman is not seeking re-election.
For the Division 1 seat, incumbent Justice Tim Armstead is being challenged by former Justice Richard Neely and northern panhandle Circuit Judge David Hummel.
For the Division 3 seat, incumbent Justice John Hutchison is being challenged by Jackson Circuit Judge Lora Dyer and Charleston attorney Bill Schwartz. Hutchison was appointed after former Justice Allen Loughry resigned. The term is to finish the rest of Loughry's term and will end in 2024.
All three of the Supreme Court races are non-partisan. The Division 1 and 2 races are for regular 12-year terms on the Supreme Court. The Division 3 race is to fill the seat formerly held by Allen Loughry. Gov. Jim Justice appointed Hutchison to fill that seat in December 2018. The term for the Division 3 seat will end in 2024
In 2018, Tabit finished third in a special election for two seats on the Supreme Court left by the retirements of Robin Jean Davis and Menis Ketchum. Armstead and Justice Evan Jenkins, both of whom had been appointed by Justice to temporarily fill those seats, won those elections. Douglas, Wooton and Schwartz all ran in the 2018 election as well.
The non-partisan court election is part of West Virginia's primary election, which is May 12.