Supreme Court candidates jockey for support
The four candidates for two seats on the state Supreme Court tried to convince business leaders why they should be elected.
The candidates - Democrats Tish Chafin and Robin Davis and Republicans Allen Loughry and John Yoder - spoke at a forum Wednesday, the first day of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce's annual Business Summit at The Greenbrier Resort.
Chafin said that in traveling to all 55 counties, "I heard a recurring theme: Everybody wants a balanced court that is fair, transparent and independent." Chafin said she has proposed a rigorous process for determining when a justice would be disqualified from hearing a case because of a conflict of interest.
Davis was elected to a four-year unexpired term in 1996 and then to a full 12-year term. Now she's running for another full term.
"I'm the most senior member of our court but not the oldest," Davis said. "I've worked with 13 different justices. I've seen it all. I've seen the court when it was highly divided, very political."
The chamber's own legal team, which reported earlier Wednesday that most of the past year's court opinions it reviewed were pro-business, "speaks volumes of where we've been to where we've come," she said.
Davis said she has served five terms as the court's chief justice - something no one else has done in 40 years. She said she has participated in more than 2,500 opinions and of those that were appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, "not one opinion - not one - has been reversed."
Davis sparked a round of laughter when she closed out her presentation by saying, "I love my work, I love what I do for the state of West Virginia and I want desperately to keep my job."
Loughry said the two seats that will be filled in the November election represent 40 percent of the five-member court.
"This isn't something that will affect you for the next two or four or even 12 years," he said. "This will affect West Virginia for generations.
"There are two seats up on the court, and I only want one of them," he said, to a round of laughter.
"I believe this election is about qualifications and ethics," he said.
Loughry wrote a book published in 2006 titled, "Don't Buy Another Vote, I Won't Pay for a Landslide: The Sordid and Continuing History of Political Corruption in West Virginia."
"It truly is time we wake up and start holding people accountable for what's happening," he said.
Loughry said that in his travels around the state he hears people talk about predictability and stability.
"We all want to walk out of the court and feel like we received a fair day in court," he said. "If you honor me with your vote, I will serve you with honor."
Yoder, a circuit judge in Martinsburg, pointed out that he studied economics under Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Freedman at the University of Chicago.
"I wrote a plan he took to Chile to privatize their Social Security system," he said.
Yoder said that at one point in his life, he started and then ran a small oil and gas business, which gives him insight into the Marcellus Shale natural gas boom.
"I'm somebody who knows about that on a firsthand level," he said. "I know the pluses and minuses."
He is the only candidate who has worked in all three branches of government - judicial, executive and legislative, Yoder said. He worked at the U.S. Supreme Court, was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to set up a division at the U.S. Department of Justice, and served in the West Virginia Senate for eight years.
"Because of that, I understand the differences in the three branches of government," Yoder said. "I understand judges aren't supposed to legislate or make social policy. I think we need that perspective on the court."
Contact writer George Hohmann at email@example.com or 304-348-4836.