Tuesday, October 31, 2006

State Supreme Court Blocks Starcher from Becoming Chief Justice

This morning's Charleston Gazette reports that the state Supreme Court voted 3-2 last week to interrupt its 25-year-old tradition of annually rotating among its members the position of chief justice and retain Chief Justice Robin Davis in her current position next year.

Davis, the Court's most senior member, has been a justice since 1996 and would have been replaced next year by controversial Justice Larry Starcher, a former chief justice, had the existing rotation plan been preserved. The justices voted unanimously to resume the annual rotation of the chief justice in 2008, when former Chief Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard will again become the chief justice.

Starcher has been a lingering source of controversy on the bench in recent years. In 2004, Starcher heckled Greenbrier County Circuit Judge Jim Rowe at a debate between Rowe and former Justice Warren McGraw. McGraw narrowly defeated Judge Rowe in the Democratic primary but lost to Justice Brent Benjamin in the general election following a very heated campaign and the Rant at Racine. Judge Rowe remains a circuit judge in Greenbrier County and is subject to administrative oversight by the chief justice.

Justice Starcher's unprecedented, flagrant violation of the canons of judicial ethics in this incident and his comments to the New York Times that Justice Benjamin "was bought by Don Blankenship" may have been contributing factors in the Court's decision to block Starcher's scheduled turn as chief justice in 2007.

Voting in the majority were Chief Justice Davis, Justice Maynard, and Justice Benjamin; dissenting were Justice Starcher and Justice Joe Albright.

I'm sure my law professors are not happy. Too bad.