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CHARLESTON — Twenty-five people have applied to be among the three inaugural judges for the West Virginia Intermediate Court of Appeals.

Gov. Jim Justice announced the applicants in a news release Thursday afternoon.

Among the applicants are two family court judges, the general counsel to the Speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates, and an attorney with the law firm that represented Justice in his residency lawsuit and recently in dealings with the Greenbrier County Board of Education.

The West Virginia Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission is responsible for interviewing candidates and providing a list of nine names from which Justice will appoint the judges.

If the governor doesn’t pick a person from the commission’s initial recommendations, the commission has to reconvene and provide him with a new list.

The commission tentatively will have interviews in November and December.

The court is scheduled to become operational July 1, 2022, and the Legislature is considering a bill during special session that would have the judges sworn in in May to begin work ahead of when they would start hearing appeals.

The Governor’s Office listed the applicants in alphabetical order:

  • John Balenovich, a Charleston lawyer.
  • S. Benjamin Bryant, an attorney with Carey Douglas Kessler & Ruby in Charleston, the firm that represented Justice in a residency lawsuit and during his bid to become Greenbrier East High School boys basketball coach this summer.
  • Kanawha Family Court Judge Jim Douglas.
  • Robert J. Frank, a Lewisburg attorney.
  • Dan Greear, general counsel to the West Virginia House of Delegates, whom Justice appointed as a Kanawha circuit judge in 2018. Greear lost an election to Kanawha Circuit Judge Tera Salango later that year.
  • Edward Ryan Kennedy, a Clarksburg attorney.
  • Joseph Ludovici, a lawyer in Hancock County.
  • Donald Nickerson Jr., an attorney in the Wheeling office of Spilman Thomas and Battle.
  • Howard Nolen, a lawyer in Boone County.
  • Ronald Reece, a lawyer in Martinsburg.
  • Jenna Robey, a lawyer in Bridgeport.
  • Mineral Family Court Judge Deana Ray Rock.
  • Senior Status Judge James Rowe, who retired from Greenbrier Circuit Court in 2016.
  • Thomas Scarr, a lawyer with Jenkins Fenstermaker in Huntington, founded by West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Evan Jenkins’ grandfather, and where Jenkins worked beginning in 1988.
  • Mychal Sommer Schulz, a lawyer with Babst Calland in Charleston.
  • Debra Scudiere, whom Justice appointed to temporarily fill a Monongalia circuit judge position in 2019.
  • Martin P. Sheehan, a Wheeling attorney, known as Marty “Red Shoes” Sheehan.
  • Putnam Prosecuting Attorney Mark Sorsaia.
  • William Stevens, a lawyer in Lincoln County.
  • Christine B. Stump, a family and divorce lawyer in Lewisburg.
  • Wood Family Court Judge Charles Darren Tallman
  • Harry Taylor II, a Charleston lawyer and former Social Security administrative law judge.
  • Gregory Alan Tucker, a lawyer in Nicholas County.
  • Crystal Walden, an appellate public defender in Kanawha County.
  • Keith Bryant Walker, a lawyer in Charleston.

To qualify as a judge on the intermediate court, a candidate must be a resident of West Virginia and a member of the West Virginia State Bar.

They also are required to have been admitted to the State Bar for 10 years, and have a minimum of five years’ experience in “preparing and presenting cases or hearing actions and making decisions on the basis of record” in federal, state or local courts, or other administrative agencies or regulatory bodies, according to the law.

Each judge will serve 10-year terms and be paid $142,500 annually. Following Justice’s initial appointments for 2022, elections for subsequent judges will be staggered, in 2024, 2026 and 2028.

Intermediate court judges are subject to the same nonpartisan elections that take place during the primary election when a judicial term expires. The intermediate judges also are subject to existing ethical policies for judges, including not practicing law or holding any other public office.

Lacie Pierson covers politics. She can be reached at 304-348-1723 or lacie.pierson@hdmediallc.com. Follow @laciepierson on Twitter.

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