Monday, October 31, 2005

Starcher Says Judges are Policymakers

West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Larry Starcher--who has become notorious for his unorthodox public behavior and leniency toward violent criminals--gave a speech Friday at the West Virginia Political Science Association at which he defended the popular election of judges. Nothing wrong here, until you hear his rationale.

Starcher--who is increasingly known as "Let 'em Loose Larry" after casting deciding votes on the court to give a serial child molester probation and reduce a kidnapper's sentence by 2/3--says judges should be elected because they are part of the policymaking process.

In his speech, Starcher said, "Voters should be entitled to choose those that make public policy...Since judges make public policy, it follows that, like other policymakers, they should be accountable to the people in a representative political system. Accountability usually means that those who lead policy-making departments are subject to direct, periodic popular review in elections."

Pardon me if I sound a bit incredulous. Unless we have adopted a new constitution recently, we still have three branches of government--legislative, executive, and judicial--that each exercise separate powers and should not encroach upon those powers reserved to another branch. Of course, Starcher does not share this view. In Larry's World, judges are the law. If you don't like what the law says, just say it's inequitable or that the legislative branch did not foresee a particular set of circumstances and invent a new law from whole cloth. When the legislative branch passes a new law to overrule the judge-made law, invent a new theory of interpreting the Equal Protection Clause or Due Process Clause.

Since we in West Virginia still elect our judges, the people of this state will have an opportunity in 2008 to pass judgment on whether to render the same verdict for Let 'em Loose Larry as they did for Warren McGraw last year. We will consider the cases of Tony Arbaugh and Raymond Richardson and probably other violent criminals whose sentences were greatly reduced by the state Supreme Court from 2001 to 2004. We will consider the many businesses that have avoided doing business in this state because of our reputation as a judicial hellhole. We will consider Justice Starcher's outrageous appearance at the 2004 primary election candidate forum at which he repeatedly heckled Supreme Court candidate Jim Rowe, who remains a circuit judge in Greenbrier County and whose decision are reviewed by Starcher on appeal. We will consider this and more and find that Justice Starcher deserves to be handed a gold watch rather than 12 more years on the bench.

WV Conservative has another good perspective on this.