I usually don’t get involved in politics, but since I fight every day to protect people’s rights and defend the constitution, I consider this post my duty as a constitutional defender and champion of the little guy. There was an article in the Register-Herald yesterday, entitled, “Ketchum pledges one term, to bring experience to court,” that I suggest anyone looking for more information about West Virginia’s Supreme Court race read.
Ever since the 2004 election, the West Virginia Supreme Court races have become overly politicized, which begs the question: why should they be political races in the first place? Are elections the best way to achieve justice and seat the most qualified Justices? I argue that they are not.
In the article, Ketchum is quoted as saying:
“I just received an e-mail with an article from the New York Times that just blasted our court,” Ketchum told The Register-Herald editorial board. “It’s talking about the U.S. Supreme Court is going to try and fix the corrupt West Virginia Supreme Court.”
Not only that, but now there is even a John Grisham book that openly mocks our Supreme Court elections in West Virginia. It needs to change. Ketchum continued:
“They must insulate themselves,” he said. “You go to work, you do your job and you stay out of the limelight. That has to be done to get the appearance back that our court is judicial.”
Ketchum believes an independent commission made up of regular citizens should make the decision if a Supreme Court justice should be recused from a case.
“I think it’s too much on the justices to ask them to recuse themselves from cases,” he said. “I do not think it can be circuit judges put on a commission because they work for the Supreme Court.”
This is exactly what we need. Reform of our judicial process, but not a reform that takes rights away from people and gives more rights to insurance companies and big business. We need reforms that give more justice, not reforms that take it away.
And for these ideas, Menis Ketchum has been viciously attacked. He has been attacked by his opponents, by sitting Supreme Court Justices, and by big business and the insurance companies. And why have they been attacking him? Because he dared to represent plaintiffs in their fights for justice. These are the types of cases they consider “frivolous” lawsuits. Cases such as these: where a hard-working steelworker or coal-miner, who works hard every day to support his family, is injured by a reckless driver through no fault of his own, and as a result, is left with no income, mounting medical bills, and looming bankruptcy; or where an 82 year old grandmother is denied a necessary operation due to a technicality in an insurance companies’ fine print. I see these cases everyday, and I feel for these people. I am proud to fight for them against emotionless and greedy insurance companies who want nothing more than to deny them coverage and leave them helpless. Of course, not all corporations are heartless, but many are, and all insurance companies are.
Since when is it a bad thing to represent living breathing people with real problems? People suffer. Since when is it a good thing to represent a corporation or insurance company who is concerned only with the bottom line? Any insurance company would wrongfully deny coverage in each and every case if they thought they could get away with it. They have legions of lawyers working hard every day to get them as close to this goal as they can get. Is that who you want on the Supreme Court? Someone who has an agenda aimed at insulating business from those pesky little people who work for them, with them and around them? Not I. I want judges and justices who will give fair and equal access to everybody, rather than ones who get elected on the platform of denying rights to individuals in order to promote a “better business climate.”
Lastly, Menis Ketchum has the greatest qualification for West Virginia’s highest court: experience. Real experience: trying jury trials. He has more jury trial experience than all the other candidates combined. You can’t decide cases unless you’ve been there before, and you can rest assured that Menis Ketchum has been there.
This is not a partisan argument (I am a conservative NRA member and the son of one of the most ardent tort reformers around), and this is not an argument against any of the other candidates. In fact two need to be elected. I just think that Ketchum is the most qualified, and that the attacks on him are ludicrous. I just believe in equal access to justice. Justice not just for the big companies, insurance companies, and large law firms. But justice for the little guy – and those pesky little lawyers who represent them.
And, most importantly, any judge or justice should have experience representing criminal defendants. Period.
– John H. Bryan