WEST Virginia has a reputation for a prickly legal climate. That perception developed in part because of legislative decisions, in part from how the attorney general has used his office, and in part because some state Supreme Court justices were not committed to fairness.
As a result, West Virginia is long on multimillionaire trial attorneys and short on multibillion-dollar employers.
The contest for two seats on the state Supreme Court is important to changing that perception. Justices serve 12-year terms and can cast a long shadow.
The Daily Mail endorses incumbent Democrat Robin Davis and Republican Allen Loughry.
Davis, a native of Van in Boone County, is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan, and has a degree in industrial relations and a law degree from WVU.
First elected to fill an unexpired term in 1996, she was re-elected in 2000.
Davis has worked with 13 justices, has been elected chief justice five times, and has not been reversed at the U.S. Supreme Court.
During her tenure, the court instituted the nation's first domestic violence registry, which allows simultaneous transmission of information to all courts and
law enforcement offices. She also has worked to cut truancy and deter kids from dropping out of school.
In response to corporations' complaints about not having an automatic right of appeal, Davis revised the appellate court rules, and justices now explain their decisions. The state also created a business court to hear disputes between businesses.
These are steps forward.
The state Chamber of Commerce has praised Davis for helping to provide "stability, transparency and predictability," and for "fair, thoughtful and reasoned decisions that will help positively change national perceptions regarding the legal climate in our state."
Loughry, a native of Parsons, holds four law degrees and has worked for a congressman, for former Gov. Gaston Caperton, as a senior assistant attorney general and as a state Supreme Court clerk for nine years.
Richie Heath of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, contended earlier this year that personal injury lawyers would very much like to elect the other Democratic candidate, Tish Chafin.
Which, by some lights, makes it very important to focus votes on Davis and Loughry.