First the issue of West Virginia’s judicial elections process went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Now a former justice of the nation’s highest court is going all the way to West Virginia to take on the issue.
Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor went to the mining state to urge a change in the way the judges on the state’s appellate court are selected. O’Connor, a vocal opponent of partisan judicial elections, urged state officials to follow the lead of her home state of Arizona in reforming the judicial process.
“It’s just been an excellent system,” she said of Arizona, where a commission now recommends judges to the governor for appointment. “I think we have as good a bench in the state today, as anywhere in the nation.”
O’Connor spoke at the second of three public hearings on potential changes to West Virginia’s judicial selection process, according to WVPB. That process was the subject of national attention when the U.S. Supreme Court took up the case this year in Caperton v. A. T. Massey Coal Co., which involved a West Virginia appellate judge who cast the deciding vote overturning a $50 million verdict against a company.
The judge’s ruling came after the company’s CEO gave $3 million in direct and indirect contributions to the judge’s election campaign. That amount was more than half the total spent in the campaign.
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court held that the judge’s failure to recuse himself violated the Due Process Clause.