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This is one of a series of guest columns from candidates in contested races in the May 12 West Virginia Primary Election.

In 2018 our Supreme Court and our state faced a real constitutional crisis. $32,000 couches and over $3 million office renovations for justices outraged taxpayers — including me.

As an award-winning lawyer with over 30 years’ experience in West Virginia courts, I decided to run in the special election that resulted from impeachments and resignations from this crisis. My decision started at my 30-year reunion from Washington & Lee University School of Law where a former classmate and Texas lawyer asked me how many of our justices would be indicted. I was shocked by how our local problem was now national, and a stain I don’t think has been washed away with all that followed. This is no criticism of the conduct of any currently sitting justices.

My concerns focused on the process of the impeachments, appointments and the influence of out-of-state money on the campaign. I filed suit against the governor over constitutional issues regarding his appointments and was joined by another attorney and assisted by many who shared my concern. Indeed, while being interviewed in the Eastern Panhandle recently by a conservative radio host, he pointed out that he shared my concern that one party leader was in the office of the governor during the appointments. Concerns that stretched to the out-of-state money effort on behalf of two candidates by a party — in a supposedly nonpartisan race. In his words, not mine, it all smelled a bit.

As a lawyer I ran a firm and a business with payroll and taxes so I bring a new perspective that is sorely needed. Clearly the robes and the title of your honor warped the perspective of some prior justices. The taxpayer dollar belongs to the taxpayer!

West Virginia continues to lose population at a rate higher than the rest of the nation. When my older son graduates Marshall University this spring, he will likely join the brain drain of bright young minds fleeing the state for greater opportunities, leaving behind an opioid crisis and 7,000 children in state custody. It’s not a rosy picture, but it’s our reality. How we deal with it is up to us.

Our court must apply the law fairly and have the blinders on whether the party at the bench is the governor or a janitor — but it must also respect our tax dollars. The Supreme Court controls $130 million that funds our entire court system. West Virginia citizens deserve the best administrator to control that money, then the justices need to closely watch him. Something was missing several years ago and hopefully that has been fixed. As a candidate, I intend to make sure it is fixed.

Better days are ahead for West Virginia if we take action now. We can take our seat at the table by properly informing ourselves and voting on May 12, or we can allow out-of-state interests and a few at the table who benefit to keep us on the menu — while we pay the tab. We all want predictability and fairness and so do companies that are thinking of coming here. This is not a liberal or conservative issue, and I belong to no party and am independent as a candidate should be for an office that is nonpartisan by law.

After all, shouldn’t the position of justice be governed by law and followed by all who seek that office, including their supporters? This is the time to put principles over politics and right the ship of state. Our court should be about our people, which includes you, me and our children, including the 7,000 now in state custody. This is our state and our court system, so let’s take it back on May 12.

Bill Schwartz, a resident of Charleston, is a candidate for West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in Division 3.

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