Justices need down-to-earth experience

September 22, 2018

This is one of a series of guest columns from candidates for public office in the Nov. 6 general election in West Virginia.

I have always thought that a West Virginia Supreme Court justice should have had practical experience in all areas of the law before he or she could sit in the East Wing of the Capitol. I think it is high time that we have a justice on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals who, as a lawyer, has had substantial down-to-earth, day-to-day, get-your-hands-dirty, realistic experience. That’s not only in being a judge, but also who knows how to run a law office, juggle clients, talk to people, look disappointed parties in the eyes, write pleadings, pick juries, argue cases and who has had to deal with disgruntled judges. Embattled Justice Loughry was an example of a law graduate who had never practiced law a day in his life, or been a lower court judge, yet he sat on a high bench in judgment over people’s lives.

I am a former divorce lawyer with nearly 40 years of experience and a family court judge for nearly two years. As a Supreme Court justice, I will put children first. I am particularly sensitive to the needs for properly funding guardians ad litem, who champion and give voice to children in domestic relations cases. Lastly, the duty in law is giving deference and reverence to the predictability function of the law.

My platform consists of five basic promises to West Virginia voters, if elected, which I’ll call “holy covenants”:

1. I will bring my own furniture to my office, or use what’s there;

2. I will buy my own lunches;

3. I will write my own opinions;

4. I will never use a stateowned vehicle; and,

5. I will permit the press and media to have reasonable access to my physical office.

Regarding the opioid crisis: I favor establishing a full-time drug court out of the Supreme Court’s budget (circuit courts already have criminal and civil matters to deal with); I believe doctors should not be held civilly liable for failing to treat pain; and Schedule I and II drugs should only be prescribed by doctors.

As an attorney, I have argued over 40 cases in the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, both before and after the new West Virginia Rules of Appellate Procedure. I have taught numerous continuing legal education seminars, and I have written published articles in family law.

I have been a prosecutor, a defense attorney, an in-house special education adviser and a hearing officer. In short, I have tried a large variety of cases in 44 of the state’s 55 counties over 39 years — everything, both to juries and judges, from criminal, civil, boundary lines, due process (special education) cases, slip-and-falls, water rights, car wrecks and, of course, divorce cases.

I have been especially diligent in discharging my obligations as a Kanawha County Family Court judge. From Jan. 15, 2017, through Aug. 30, 2017, I collected $46,541.85 in delinquent child support, and from Jan. 1, 2018, to Aug. 13, 2018, I brought in $41,437.71 in unpaid child support monies.

In addition to being a native West Virginian, born in Braxton County, where I spent the majority of my professional life, my connections with West Virginia run deep. I attended Clay County High School, Class of 1969; graduated from Morris Harvey College, BA 1973, and from WVU, receiving a MA in 1975, and a law degree in 1977. My daughter, Jennifer, is a paralegal in Charleston, my older son, Justin, is an ENT doctor in Lewisburg, and my younger son, Jarod, is an assistant U.S. Attorney in Wheeling. I have five grandchildren. I’m nobody, and I don’t come from a money-rich family.

I also challenged former Chief Justice Loughry on having Saturday court in 2017 and early 2018, and won!

Jim Douglas, a Charleston resident, is a candidate for the Division 2 position on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. The election is non-partisan.

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