This is one of a series of guest columns from candidates in contested races in the June 9 West Virginia Primary Election.
Historically, our citizens have viewed judges as exemplifying honor and fairness. However, in the midst of the crisis that engulfed our Supreme Court in 2018, it became clear that the majority of West Virginians had lost trust in our state’s Supreme Court.
In late 2018, I was appointed and then elected to serve as a justice on your Supreme Court. I recognized immediately that if our court was to truly fulfill its duty to uphold our Constitution, follow the rule of law and administer justice fairly, it must regain the trust and confidence of the people of our state.
My fellow justices and I rolled up our sleeves and began the long journey to rebuild our shattered court. We have made tremendous progress. We adopted written policies to ensure our court system is held to high ethical standards. These policies go to the heart of how the court system spends your hard-earned tax dollars, including purchasing processes and the use of vehicles, furniture and equipment.
We have made transparency and openness a priority. We have streamlined the judiciary’s budget, returning $10 million of your money back to the Legislature last year to assist our citizens in meeting other needs. This year, under my leadership as chief justice, we submitted and gained approval of a court system budget that is $4 million less than the judiciary’s budget was five years ago.
As a fiscal conservative, I have worked during my two decades of public service to ensure that your tax dollars are not wasted. I have continued this work on the court and I believe our court is more open, accountable and accessible than ever before.
Today, we are getting the Supreme Court’s work done in a timely, fair and honest manner. I am committed to upholding our state and federal constitutions and following the rule of law. I recognize it is not my job to make law or legislate from the bench but instead to interpret the law. I will work to ensure that we continue to provide every litigant a fair and impartial decision on the merits of their case.
We must also continue to address the devastating impact the opioid crisis has had on our children and families. Children are tragically suffering the effects of their parents’ substance abuse in homes throughout West Virginia. In many cases, children must be permanently removed from these homes and provided new homes. There are also cases where, with the right treatment and assistance, families can be restored and reunited. We are working hard to make sure that, in each case, the children are protected.
The court has worked with the Legislature to create Family Treatment Courts in five locations throughout our state. These courts provide a promising community-based approach to help restore families and ensure that our children can be raised in safe, healthy and loving homes. I look forward to expanding these courts to other areas of our state.
We have made great progress, but there is still work to do. In challenging times such as these, we simply cannot go backward and return to the ways of the past. Each day we do our work with honesty, integrity, openness and a commitment to upholding our Constitution and the rule of law, we are one day closer to fully regaining the trust of all our fellow West Virginians. As a justice on your Supreme Court, I have been deeply honored to play a part in this effort to rebuild our court, and I would appreciate your vote to continue moving our court forward.