by Ron Gregory
CHARLESTON — Secretary of State Mac Warner’s office has issued a statement regarding the eligibility of partisan officeholders to seek election to the state supreme court of appeals.
Supreme court justices and other state judges were elected in partisan elections until 2016, when their balloting became non-partisan. With the recent resignation of two justices, two supreme court positions will appear on the November 6 ballot. Among those who have filed is current Republican Representative Evan Jenkins. Some have speculated that Jenkins should have resigned his seat in congress in order to file for the supreme court opening. Jenkins is a lame duck congressman, having lost the May primary for U.S. Senate to Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
Warner said, despite the contradiction of serving as a partisan elected official while running a non-partisan race, that no West Virginia law prohibits that practice.
Some trial attorneys, who are opposed to Jenkins, have speculated on social media that Jenkins does not have the ten years’ experience as a lawyer required by state code for justices. Others say the requirement only insists that the candidate be “admitted” for ten years, whether in practice for that period of time or not.
The secretary of state’s office had, on two separate occasions, suggested that current officeholders consult the Judicial Investigation Commission (JIC) before filing. However, the statement released by Warner this afternoon says reporters drew “inaccurate conclusions” from that advice.
“It is clear that a partisan officeholder may run for judicial office without resignation so long as they are not also running for a partisan office,” Warner’s statement says. “In West Virginia, our laws do not contain ‘Resign to Run’ provisions for judicial candidates.”