Wheeling Attorney Martin Sheehan Will Run For West Virginia Supreme Court
WHEELING — Wheeling attorney Martin Sheehan not only is seeking an appointment to one of two vacant seats on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, he also has filed for election to the court in November.
Sheehan is among nine candidates sending applications to the Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission, which will meet Aug. 23 to select a candidate for recommendation to the vacancy created by the resignation of former Justice Menis Ketchum — now being called the “Division 1” seat. Their recommendations will be sent on to Gov. Jim Justice for consideration.
Interested candidates had until midnight Tuesday to submit their applications.
The appointed judge would serve until voters elect a judge in the Nov. 6 general election and that judge is sworn into office.
In addition to Sheehan, those filing for the judicial appointment to the Division 1 seat include U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va.; House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha; Robert H. Carlton, Williamson; Gregory B. Chiartas, Charleston; Robert J. Frank, Lewisburg; Arthur Wayne King, Clay; D.C. Offutt Jr., Barboursville; and William Schwartz, Charleston.
The special election to fill the vacant court seat will run concurrently with the regularly scheduled general election.
Candidates interested in seeking election to the Division 1 seat in November must file separately with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office by midnight Tuesday. Candidates already filing include Sheehan; Harry C. “Bo” Bruner Jr., of Charleston; Carl E. Hostler, of Scott Depot; Brenden D. Long, of Hurricane; and Joanna I. Tabit, of Charleston.
Ketchum announced his resignation July 11 — the day before House of Delegates Judiciary Committee members began deliberating on whether members of the Supreme Court should be impeached. This week the committee did vote to impeach the other four sitting justices — Allen Loughry, Robin Davis, Margaret Workman and Beth Walker.
Following the impeachment, Davis immediately announced her retirement, resulting in a second vacancy on the court. She explained she made the move so candidates could file for her seat in time for the November election.
There is now a second process beginning for appointment to Davis’ seat, and for candidates to file for elections to the “Division 2” seat.
“Now it’s a little bit of a scramble,” Sheehan said. “I signed up before Robin Davis resigned, and now they have to sort out the process.”
He explained why he was quick to file for the appointment and as a candidate in the special election.
“You should really run for the office if you wish to be considered a serious person for the appointment,” he said. “I’ve wanted to be a judge for a long time. But I never thought about the Supreme Court until now.”
Sheehan said former justices Arthur Recht, Richard Neely and John McCuskey all have sent letters on his behalf to the governor encouraging his appointment.
As a former assistant U.S. attorney who was involved with the imprisonment of former mob boss Paul Hankish, Sheehan said he has had the proper vetting and background checks to be a judge.
“People are looking for a situation that is scandal fee,” he said.
Sheehan said he was chosen as one of the top 10 criminal defense attorneys in the nation by the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys in 2015 and has served as president for the National Board of Bankruptcy Trustees.
He is an adjunct lecturer at the West Virginia University School of Law, and teaches advanced bankruptcy classes.
“I practice law in a lot of different areas,” he said. “People call me up and ask me things. I know procedures.”
Sheehan is a former chairman of the Ohio County Republican Party, and in the past has been a candidate for the West Virginia House of Delegates and county prosecutor.
He said impeaching everyone on the court is “startling.
“Institutions of government tend to have historical memory,” he said. “Members on the court don’t all start fresh at same time, and it carries on from person to person. This is gong to be lost, and it is a tragedy.
“We want people on the court who are well-read and can carry on the tradition,” said Sheehan. “In the end, that’s very important.”
Candidates for the Supreme Court seat must be at least 30 years old and have practiced law for 10 years. They also must have lived in West Virginia for at least five years.
William Stewart Thompson, of Madison, is the only candidate thus far to file for election to the Division 2 seat, while applications from those seeking temporary nomination to the position are currently being accepted.
The deadline for applications and letters of recommendation is Wednesday, and interviews will be held Aug. 24.