CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Kanawha Circuit Judge Carrie Webster has sat on a case important to some state National Guard members for more than eight months.
The former head of the West Virginia National Guard was in Webster's courtroom last May to argue the state is illegally denying retirement money to public employees who are also members of the Guard.
At a May 14 hearing, Webster told Maj. Gen. Allen Tackett's lawyer and an attorney for the state Consolidated Public Retirement Board that she would rule soon.
It's been eight months. Webster, a Democrat, has previously been chided by the state Supreme Court for taking too long to issue rulings.
Tackett's attorney, Ray Shepard, asked Webster in a Dec. 3 letter if the court needed any additional information.
"That was a polite way to say, 'Hey, would you please pay attention to this case,' " Shepard said.
The response? "Crickets," Shepard said Friday.
Following a reporter's phone call about the case on Friday, Webster said she was prepared to rule on the case, but her staff was trying to get additional information from Shepard's office.
The judge said she could rule as soon as Tuesday if she obtained the documents. Webster called Shepard on Friday afternoon, Tackett said.
"I am unable to rule until I secure these additional documents that I have sought," Webster said.
She said the departure of her law clerk around Christmas has complicated her efforts.
"When you lose a law clerk, you lose their knowledge," Webster said.
Tackett said he would like a ruling for several reasons.
"There's several guardsmen who are state employees who are getting ready to retire and they are waiting on my decision to see how all this turns out," Tackett said.
State law gives public employees extra pension benefits because of their "active duty" military service. But Tackett argued the state's retirement board is unfairly denying credit to members of the state National Guard for time they spend training during times of war. The state does not consider that work "active duty."
If he loses in Webster's court, Tackett plans to keep pressing his case. He will appeal to the state Supreme Court, he said. And, if Tackett loses there, he will appeal to the state Legislature to change the law to make sure Guard members can get credit for their service.
Tackett has been wondering what happened to the case. Tackett said he and Shepard had talked about sending the letter in October and in November but waited.
The state Supreme Court has previously told Webster to rule on cases in a timely manner.