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Race on for W.Va. Supreme Court

October 21, 2012
By JOSELYN KING - Political Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register


Political Writer

West Virginians this year will elect two members to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals from among four candidates on the ballot.

Democratic nominees include incumbent Justice Robin Jean Davis and Charleston attorney Letitia "Tish" Chafin. Republicans on the ballot are 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge John Yoder and state Supreme Court employee Allen Loughry.

State Supreme Court justices are elected to 12-year terms.

- Chafin is a Weirton native and graduate of Brooke High School who now lives in Charleston. She is married to state Sen. Truman Chafin.

Chafin serves as managing partner with the H. Truman Chafin law firm in Williamson, W.Va., and is the immediate past president of the West Virginia State Bar. She also is an ex-officio member of the state's Judicial Advisory Commission.

The Chafins have three daughters.

She believes the role of the justice is to interpret the law as it is written.

"Judges should not legislate from the bench," Chafin said. "There are three distinct branches of government. The role of the Supreme Court Justice is to apply the laws passed by the Legislature."

She describes herself as fair and hard working.

"I have the ability to work with diverse groups and bring them together," Chafin commented. "I did that as president of the state bar.

"In a non-political sense, I'm a good mom. I like to put my family first. One of the biggest challenges of my campaign is making sure my family isn't neglected."

- Davis, of Charleston, was born and raised in Boone County, W.Va. She earned her bachelor's degree from West Virginia Wesleyan College and her master's and law degrees from West Virginia University.

Initially elected to a four-year unexpired term in 1996, Davis won election in November 2000 to a full 12-year term. She is the most senior member of the current court.

She is married to Charleston attorney Scott Segal, and they have one son, Oliver Davis-Segal.

"Justices should be knowledgeable about the law, obviously, and must be able to render decisions on the facts of the case, without bias or personal agenda," Davis said. "Justices must be leaders who recognize and seize opportunities to lead. Justices must be ethical and fair and demonstrate that no litigant has an advantage over any other. Justices should also recognize this unique opportunity to serve the public.

"The Constitution and the rule of law draw bright lines in regard to interpretation, and that is what guides my work every day," she said.

She describes herself as "fair, ethical, hardworking."

"And I am committed to improving our state," she said.

- Loughry, of Charleston, currently practices law at the West Virginia Supreme Court. He also teaches political science at the University of Charleston.

He holds four separate law degrees including a Doctor of Juridical Science from The American University; master of laws in criminology and criminal justice from the University of London; a master of laws in law and government from The American University; and a doctorate from Capital University School of Law. He holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from West Virginia University.

Loughry and wife, Kelly, have one son named Justice.

"You want a judge to be fair and impartial - treating all citizens equally and fairly under the law, whether they are a major corporation or a bus driver from Ohio County," Loughry said. " I truly believe that citizens want someone with courage and common sense on the bench.

"Equally important, and often overlooked, is the characteristic of incorruptibility. A judge needs to stand against corruption and follow the law."

And the judiciary should not be in the business of legislating from the bench, he continued.

"In order to have a justice system that is not influenced by the legislative or executive branches, justices must be blind to politics. I will stand against activist judges and will follow the Constitution," he said.

"How a judge interprets the law is critically important to people's lives and when people do not have confidence in the system, it is seen as just another political branch of government. When a judiciary is perceived as impartial, however, the system serves as a safeguard of the rights and freedoms of citizens."

He describes himself as family-oriented.

"My wife and son are the most important aspect of my life," Loughry said. "I humbly consider myself to be knowledgeable and open-minded, with a wide range of experiences that add to my insight and thoughtfulness regarding not only legal issues, but also life issues."

- Yoder is a resident of Harpers Ferry. He is presently serving as supervising judge for the 23rd Judicial Circuit in Morgan County. He also served two non-consecutive terms in the West Virginia Senate - from 1992-96 and from 2004-08.

From 1980-83, Yoder was a Reagan appointee working for the U.S. Department of Justice as director of the forfeiture office, criminal division. Before this, he worked at the U.S. Supreme Court - first as a fellow, and later as special assistant to Chief Justice Warren Berger.

He holds a law degree from the University of Kansas, and a master's in business administration from the University of Chicago.

"Qualities that make for a good judge include experience, belief and respect for Rule of Law, legal scholarship, wisdom, balance, impartiality, good listening skills, patience, insightfulness, courage, and temperance," he said.

Yoder believes justices should look to written and established law when making their decisions.

"I believe in strict construction of both legislation and the Constitution," he said. "Judges should only strictly interpret and enforce the law, and should not legislate or make social policy. If legislation or policies violate the Constitution, then the Constitution must be given priority and upheld."

He noted he is "firm but compassionate."

"I'm well-educated and well-rounded with a depth of experience - well-balanced, methodical, hard-working, analytical, innovative, impartial, and an excellent listener," Yoder said.

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