"Maybe just having that congregation of people around them would give them just that extra amount of support," he said.
Benjamin traces his passion for human rights issues, from drug courts to adoptions, to his parents.
His mother and father both grew up poor. Benjamin's father was orphaned during the Great Depression. They emphasized to their children the importance helping people.
"The thing that was most important was people. That was instilled in me at a very early age," Benjamin said.
Benjamin grew up in Columbus and was recruited to play lacrosse by Ohio State University, where he completed both his undergraduate and law degrees. He said his parents' focus on helping people influenced him to become a lawyer and, later, a judge.
"If you look at the judges in West Virginia, what you see are people who are not just occupying public office. These are folks who want to serve their fellow West Virginians. Most of these people could be making much more money in private practice," he said.
After college, Benjamin and his wife moved to Charleston. He worked for the local Robinson & McElwee law firm for 20 years.
He was elected to the state Supreme Court in 2004, defeating incumbent Justice Warren McGraw.
Don Blankenship, then-CEO of Massey Energy coal company, contributed $3 million to an effort to unseat McGraw. That obviously benefited Benjamin, his opponent. The Blankenship effort came back to haunt Benjamin in 2008, when a case involving Massey came before the Supreme Court.
He did not recuse himself from that case. When the plaintiffs appealed the state Supreme Court's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, justices there ruled the West Virginia high court must reconsider the case - with Benjamin not participating.
'Like a family'
Benjamin began his term as chief justice in January.
Justices rotate the position each year, and Benjamin previously held the office in 2009.
Serving as chief justice doesn't give Benjamin any more power on the court. Just as on the U.S. Supreme Court, all five justices' opinions carry equal weight. But the leadership position does significantly increase his workload.
The state Supreme Court does much more than rule on cases. It also is charged with administering all the state's lower courts, from magistrate courts all the way up. As chief justice, Benjamin is the state court system's top administrator.
"We are an entire branch of government, and our job is not just to adjudicate, but run all of the courts in West Virginia," he said. "Somebody has to make certain administrative decisions."
The chief justice also is the high court's de facto spokesman, appearing before the Legislature when the need arises and speaking for the other justices on national matters.
When in session, the state Supreme Court holds court dates every other week. Justices use the off weeks to catch up on reading and research.
Benjamin said he now finds himself doing much of that reading and preparation at night, because his days are largely consumed with administrative work.
He's glad the chief justice position rotates every year because it gives each member an appreciation for the amount of work required to keep the state's judicial system going.
However, he enjoys the work.
"For me, serving with my four colleagues is a treasure. We genuinely like each other. It's almost, in some ways, like a family," he said. "It makes the job fun."
And while the Supreme Court may act like a family, Benjamin said that doesn't prevent the five justices from having strong disagreements. Justices still respect one another, however, and listen to their colleagues' opinions.
Benjamin said many times he doesn't know how cases will turn out until the final vote.
"You change your mind a lot by listening to your colleagues," he said.
He said the state Supreme Court was a very political "activist court" in the past but is now more nonpartisan and moderate.
"I think we all have the same vision, that the court needs to be a stabilizing force in West Virginia," he said.
Justice Allen Loughry is the newest addition to the court. He was elected in November to fill retiring Justice Thomas McHugh's seat. Benjamin said McHugh is greatly missed, but he predicted Loughry would fit in well with the other justices.
"I think as we begin reading his opinions, I think people will get a very good image of him as a responsible, competent, thoughtful jurist," he said. "It's a delight to have him on our court."