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Editorial: Davis, Chafin good choices for state Supreme Court

Oct. 20, 2012 @ 12:26 AM

Selecting judges for the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals is never typical.

First of all, the state is only one of seven in the country that holds partisan elections for an office that is theoretically non-partisan.

West Virginia also has one of the longest terms for justices -- 12 years. Five other states have 12-year terms, one 14 years and four life terms.

And in this year's election, two of the court's five seats are on the ballot, something that only happens every six years.

But despite concerns about the big spending and the political nature of the process, voters are fortunate this time to have four very qualified candidates for these long-running positions. Each attorney brings different strengths, but in interviews this fall, all were convincing that they would make their decisions on the rule of law and not follow any particular political agenda. That is how it should be.

Our two choices are incumbent Robin Davis and newcomer Letitia "Tish" Chafin.

Davis was first elected in 1996 to an unexpired four-year term and was re-elected in 2000. Her 16 years of experience are a real asset as the state's only appellate court continues to take on a greater workload. In response to criticism that West Virginia does not have an automatic right of appeal, Davis played a key role in reworking the court's rules to provide a decision on the merits of each case presented to the Supreme Court.

It is too early to tell whether that will improve national perceptions about the legal climate in West Virginia, but it has been a step in the right direction and a lot of work for the justices. She also is a supporter of the new business court, and endorsements from both business and labor organizations indicate she has found the right balance on business issues.

Davis also has pushed to get the court system to take a more active role in truancy cases to help get at-risk students back in school and on track for a meaningful future. She also has begun programs to help with child abuse and neglect cases, including an online database and expanded parent education programs.

Chafin does not have judicial experience, but she comes to the campaign from a diverse legal practice and a term as president of the West Virginia State Bar, during which she visited the court systems in all 55 counties. Tri-State residents may also know her as a cum laude graduate of Marshall University and member of the Marshall Board of Governors.

Chafin also has presented thoughtful proposals on recusal procedures and email disclosure for justices to eliminate perceptions of influence on the court.

We think Davis and Chafin will serve the court well for years to come.

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