WHEELING - Retired West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Thomas McHugh will return to the high court - at least temporarily.
Current Chief Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard on Wednesday appointed McHugh to fill in for ailing Justice Joseph P. Albright until Albright returns to the court.
Albright has been absent from court proceedings since the court convened for its current term earlier this month. He had surgery on his esophagus on July 28 at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian Hospital, and he is stil recovering.
The justices were presented with a letter from Albright during their lunch break Tuesday that told them he wouldn't be returning to the bench until at least the January term, and that he would be recusing himself from all cases.
After this, the justices postponed all cases to come before the court on Tuesday afternoon and on Wednesday until an interim justice was appointed.
"The important thing is for Justice Albright to have a speedy recovery," McHugh said. "I greatly respect the court. It is an honor to serve in Justice Albright's place during his period of recovery."
McHugh was first elected to the Supreme Court in 1980. He was re-elected in 1992, and he served until his retirement on Dec. 31, 1997. While on the court, McHugh held the title of chief justice in 1984, 1988, 1992, 1995 and 1996.
In recent years, McHugh has practiced law with his son in the Charleston law firm of Allen, Guthrie & McHugh.
McHugh was born in Charleston on March 26, 1936, and is a graduate of West Virginia University and the West Virginia University College of Law. In law school he was a member of the Order of Coif, a legal honorary, and was associate editor of the West Virginia Law Review.
He was elected judge in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County 1974, re-elected in 1976 and served as chief circuit judge from 1974-1980.
"Justice Tom McHugh is extremely busy with mediation and a very active law practice, and it is a real sacrifice for him to stop all those activities, give up the income and come back to serve once again on the Supreme Court," Maynard said.
Justice Robin Davis said she was "delighted to get to work with Justice McHugh again."
"The choice by Chief Justice Maynard once again shows how accomplished he is at doing the right thing for the court and the best thing for the entire state," she noted.
Justice Brent Benjamin echoed her sentiments.
"I look forward to serving with Justice McHugh over the next several months," he said. "He is a fine jurist and an outstanding individual. We all appreciate Justice McHugh accepting this appointment to again serve the people of West Virginia and this Court."
Justice Larry Starcher said Maynard "selected the finest jurist available to sit on behalf of Justice Albright."
"I know that Justice Albright will be pleased," he noted.
Cases that were to come before the court on Tuesday afternoon, including the lawyer disciplinary case of Wheeling attorney and Ohio County prosecutor candidate Mark Blevins, were postponed because of Albright's absence and have been rescheduled for Sept. 23. As such, the court will not be traveling to Marshall University for court proceedings Sept. 23 as originally planned. Cases set for Wednesday will be rescheduled for later during the current fall term of court.
"I am extremely happy that Justice Albright is improving. He is improving dramatically," Maynard said. "Anyone who knows Joe Albright knows he is a very strong and determined individual, a fighter, and hopefully he will make a full and speedy recovery and be back at court in January. We wish him well."