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No decision on judge's successor

Jan. 31, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Four months notice hasn't been long enough for W.Va. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to appoint a successor for retiring Cabell Circuit Judge David Pancake.

The Republican judge retires effective Friday, Jan. 31, after 16 years on the bench, presiding mostly over civil litigation. He gave Tomblin notice of his retirement in late September.

The state's Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission conducted interviews Dec. 3. That same week the commission recommended three local attorneys for Tomblin's consideration -- Cabell County Prosecutor Christopher D. Chiles as well as private attorneys Cheryl L. Henderson and Paul A. Ryker.

Things have been quiet ever since.

Tomblin can appoint Pancake's successor from among the three recommended or choose someone else. There has been no word on when the governor will announce his decision. His office did not respond Thursday to multiple requests for an interview concerning the status of his decision.

Cabell's Chief Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell, initially scheduled for vacation, said Thursday he plans to preside over Pancake's docket next week, a plan also confirmed by state Supreme Court spokeswoman Jennifer Bundy.

Both court officials anticipate state Chief Justice Robin Davis will name a senior status judge as a temporary replacement. Bundy said that person would serve until Tomblin appoints a replacement.

Farrell also mentioned the possibility of a 20-day waiting period between Tomblin's announcement and the appointee's swearing in. He offered no opinion as to the governor's delay, saying the timing of such appointments is at the governor's discretion.

The impending vacancy also likely will add a race to May's primary election ballot. Farrell expects a two-week filing period to commence once Tomblin declares an official vacancy. He said state law calls for a election for the unexpired term, if the vacancy occurs more than 86 days prior to the next election.

Chiles has served as Cabell County's prosecutor since April 1990. Years later he was elected president of the National District Attorneys Association. If he is appointed to the judge's position, the Cabell County Commission will have to appoint a new prosecutor.

Henderson practices at her family's law firm, Henderson, Henderson & Staples in Huntington. The 1980 graduate of West Virginia University's law school focuses on family, personal injury and real estate law and general practice.

Ryker is a solo practitioner at an office in Barboursville. The 36-year attorney started out with criminal defense work, spent time as a city arraignment judge and now focuses on civil litigation. His current areas of practice include real estate, personal injury and business law.

Pancake spoke of his intent to retire in July saying he wanted to spend more time with family.

The 11-member Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission includes two Huntington residents, lay member Douglas R. Hardman and attorney Bert Ketchum.

Follow Curtis Johnson at Facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD and via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD.

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