One rumor repeated here last week may not be possible, even if all parties agree.
Several legislators — current and former — were saying that Morgan County Republican State Senator Charles Trump carried the water for Governor Jim Justice in the recently-past session. In exchange, Trump was likely to be one of Justice’s initial appointees to the new intermediate appellate court.
But a legal eagle-eyed reader pointed out that such an arrangement may not be possible.
First of all, as I wrote last week, I don’t think Trump would be a party to such an agreement. Second, he could have been named a justice of the Supreme Court several times and was never interested. So why would he covet a spot on this new appellate court? He likely doesn’t.
Nevertheless, it is entirely possible that Justice would look over the field of potential court judges and realize Trump is head and shoulders above the rest. Then, the Governor might use his obvious powers of persuasion to convince the Senator to take an appointment.
Back to our ever-vigilant reader — who I often depend on for legal expertise and to keep me straight — she pointed out Article VI, Section 15 of the Constitution.
Yep, there are apparently still people who have copies of that old document around. Maybe a worn and ragged copy could be given to the legislature so they’d know they have a little authority to reign a dictator/governor in. Probably not.
The interpretation of that section says, “Article VI, § 15 of the West Virginia Constitution, with one exception, renders a member of the Legislature ineligible to be elected or appointed to a civil office for profit in this State, which has been created, or the emoluments of which have been increased, during the legislator’s term of office. The exception for ‘offices to be filled by election by the people,’ operates to allow an otherwise ineligible legislator to gain public office through popular election. In effect, only a vote of the people can overcome the impediment imposed by the Emoluments Clause.”
Pretty clear indeed. Senator Trump helped create the intermediate appellate court. Filling the initial spots is by appointment. Until there’s an election of judges, he would appear to be ineligible for appointment.
Surely we can conjure up a different conspiracy theory that is more plausible.
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Although I have said that statehouse personnel have, by and large, been totally fair and pleasant during the Covid pandemic, I remain bothered by the “openness” of the capitol to the citizens it allegedly serves.
When Governor Justice pointed out that the capitol building “is open” last week, it raised the eyebrows of statehouse regulars.
I noted for years that it seemed odd to me, after tightening security following the 9/11 attacks, that the statehouse remained largely an open building for months and years.
Long after metal detectors and armed personnel met visitors at county courthouses and most government facilities, one could just walk in the capitol and stroll the hallways at will.
Later, and before the Covid outbreak, security was beefed up some. The metal detectors became a regular welcome item for those wanting to peer inside.
After Covid, things became tighter still. Visitors were — and still were as late as last week — subjected to a temperature check and then identified to capitol police who man the scanners. A visitor theoretically must tell the officer who he or she is going to see and if he or she has an appointment with that public official.
Although Covid obviously changes the public landscape, I’m still enough of a First Amendment advocate to think that if a visitor gets safely through the metal scan, he or she is obviously no physical threat and should simply be able to visit his or her state capitol building. Having an appointment with someone should not be required.
If Citizen A, for example, wants to come inside the building and bow in honor of the statue of that famous Ku Klux Klanner Robert C. Byrd, he or she should be able to do so, no appointment necessary.
I recall when court “marshals” in Mingo County were instructed to ask those passing the scanner, “where are you going?”
Despotic Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury needed that information to be sure his grip on power was absolute. He wanted to know who County Clerk Big Jim Hatfield, for example, was talking with. They might be hatching some kind of conspiracy without the judge’s approval.
I don’t for a moment think that’s what motivates Justice to want average citizens interrogated at the door. It’s still more a simple, harmless display of power in the minds of most.
But, just like having to go to circuit court to enforce ignored Freedom of Information Act complaints is a deterrent to citizens accessing public records, many people are reluctant to go through the process required to make it to the Secretary of State’s office or the Senate gallery. Thus, they stay away and officials are spared of having to deal with members of the public they allegedly serve.
The super-majority of libertarian Republican legislators/patriots would not challenge Justice’s year-long rule by executive order. They’d never challenge him on access to the peoples’ capitol building either.
Sad but true.
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I promise to quit beating this clearly dead horse, but I remain amazed that liberty-loving patriots’ best excuse for not challenging Justice’s rule by decree is “teamwork” and “supporting the committee system.”
Those arguments aren’t new, it’s just astonishing they come from the new GOP majority.
Some years ago I asked a Democrat legislator why he voted what I felt was the opposite of his views and that of his constituents. “You learn to be a team player up here,” he told me. “I can’t accomplish anything if I don’t play with the team.”
I then asked exactly how many leadership “team” members voted in his district. He admitted there were none. Two elections later, the voters kicked him off the “team” entirely and the other “team” members couldn’t save him.
West Virginians had a right to think their legislature would pull in the governing by executive orders. They were told by leadership and their own legislators that it would happen. Aside from monetary guidelines, they did nothing to respond to the average citizen’s cries for help, however.
Let’s see where the “team” stands in four years.
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Legislative attorney and former Kanawha Circuit Judge Dan Greear has also been mentioned as a potential appellate court judge. He has additionally applied to replace Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman, who abruptly resigned recently.
Kaufman’s resignation, coming closely on the heels of the death of another Kanawha Circuit Judge, Charles King, opened the door for retired Cabell County Judge Dan O’Hanlon to remain on the Charleston bench.
O’Hanlon, with his senior status, was chosen as King’s temporary replacement and then took over Kaufman’s caseload. Known for his fairness and honesty, O’Hanlon smoothly steps into such vacancies without so much as a single missing rap of the gavel.
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The governor appoints court replacements who serve until the next election. A little publicized aspect of such appointments gives opponents of an appointee 20 days to object to that appointment.
It’s a rarely used provision of law.
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I speculated last week that tax exemptions for gun and accessory manufacturers were largely to make the Ranger Scientific plant a reality in Montgomery. That facility, if built, is projected to provide 400 jobs in the Upper Kanawha Valley.
While that may be one result of the legislation, lead sponsor Delegate Gary Howell, a Mineral County Republican, is hoping it boosts his district as well.
That’s where Northrop Grumman had already announced plans to.add 500.jobs over a five-year period.
Northrop Grumman already employs 1,100 at their Rocket Center, Mineral County location.
Howell hopes his bill will spur even more job development by existing manufacturers and others who may relocate to the state. He says the bill will benefit the entire state, not just his district.
According to a press release, Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company, providing systems, products and solutions in autonomous systems, cyber, C4ISR, space, strike, and logistics and modernization. It is also the largest defense contractor and third largest manufacturing employer in West Virginia.
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Cabell County Democrat Delegate Sean Hornbuckle was being mentioned by fellow Democrat and Republican legislators alike as a future Huntington mayor during the just-ended session.
That’s not new since Hornbuckle has been mentioned before for the job. What is new is that incumbent Democrat Mayor Steve Williams has said he will not run again.
Hornbuckle is hard-working, committed and articulate. If he runs for mayor, he would be a formidable candidate.
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President Joe Biden is apparently still weighing options for U.S. Attorney positions around the country. Meanwhile, the most recent appointee to the position in Southern West Virginia, Mike Stuart, has been the speaker for some Republican gatherings.
Stuart, appointed by former President Donald Trump, resigned after Biden’s election. He is rumored to be interested in seeking the GOP gubernatorial bid in 2024. Incumbent Justice is term-limited from running again — if anyone decides to adhere to the constitution on the issue.
Meanwhile, the son of a Kanawha County Family Court judge is said to be in the running for U.S. Attorney in the state’s Northern District.
Jarod Douglas has been an assistant U.S. Attorney in that district for several years. Sources in Wheeling say he is one of the leading candidates to replace Trump appointee, William Powell, who also resigned.
Jarod Douglas is the son of Kanawha Family Court Judge James Wilson Douglas. The senior Douglas was a candidate for Supreme Court in the 2020 election.
Jarod Douglas gained notoriety by prosecuting serial killer Reta Phyllis Mays, 46, of Reynoldsville. He won the conviction of the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center nursing assistant who murdered seven veterans and attempted to kill an eighth at the Clarksburg facility.
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Speaking of 2024 gubernatorial candidates, many pundits see Attorney General Patrick Morrisey as leading the GOP ticket. Like other members of the board of public works, he is clearly a likely candidate.
If he were to adhere to the position taken by all the board members, he would be past term limits in 2024. In fact, he is exceeding his stated goal of two consecutive terms with his 2020 election.
Clearly, Morrisey was not the outspoken advocate for term limits that his fellow Republican officials were.
Regardless, term limits sank just the way the governor’s personal income tax exemption did.