Menis Ketchum says he believes the West Virginia Supreme Court is under attack.
“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.”
Ketchum says he wants to bring his experience to the state’s high court and just for one 12-year term.
“I pledge to only run for one term so that I don’t have to worry about a decision that the business community or labor may not like and worry about being re-elected,” he said. “I just want to go up there and work and not worry about how my decisions would effect my re-electability.”
Ketchum added he believes West Virginia’s Supreme Court justices must act more like the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.
“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.”
Ketchum said until the 1990s justices on the state’s high court remained out of the public eye.
“For years and years, our state Supreme Court didn’t go around making public speeches and announcements, and that’s what must be done again,” he said. “The only reason a justice would do this is because they have a big ego or it’s political.”
Ketchum believes during a campaign it’s fine to let voters know where you stand on issues.
“People want to know the opinions on law of those elected,” he said. “This is how you can be a more informed voter. How can you vote for someone if you don’t know the candidates’ opinions on issues.”
Ketchum says nonpartisan elections for all of the state judges would not solve the real issue when it comes to electing them.
“Money is the problem,” he said. “Nonpartisan would mean only one election, but it only solves half the problem. They are turning judges into big-time politicians.”
Ketchum favors the appointment of Supreme Court judges.
“I know West Virginians want to elect their judges, but the best system in the world is the federal system in the United States where they are appointed,” he said.
Ketchum says the state’s high court needs justices who apply the law even-handedly, but don’t create law.
“The people elect the Legislature to create the law,” he said. “Five people in robes sitting on a bench shouldn’t substitute their judgment for that of the Legislature.”
Ketchum says he doesn’t have a socialist or activist agenda.
“I want to get the court back to where all the citizens have a high regard for our Supreme Court,” he said.
Ketchum wants voters to consider his past experience when deciding on a candidate.
“I have more jury trial experience, trying cases to jury verdict, and more appellate advocacy experience than all the other candidates combined,” he said.
Ketchum said he has appeared before the state Supreme Court on many occasions.
“I think when you sit in judgment, experience is really important,” he said. “Experience helps you form good judgment.”
Ketchum thinks one of the problems with the court today is the fact it is split between what he calls “the extreme right” and “the extreme left.”
“We need justices that are not on the extremes,” he said. “If you’re an extremist, you can’t be fair to both sides. The court needs justices that can sit in judgment and be fair to both sides in a case. When you see the statue or picture of Lady Justice holding the scales, she has a blindfold on and who am I to think I know enough to make decisions that regulate the economy of this state. Policy is to be made by the Legislature and the courts are to apply the law and not make the law.”
Ketchum says a good jurist is someone who can sit in judgment of all litigants.
“It doesn’t matter if they are to the right or the left, pro-business or pro-labor, a justice must be impartial and fair,” he said.
Ketchum believes the extremes really hurt the average citizen.
“The extremes tend to fund campaigns and have influence on people, and the average citizen is left out in the cold,” he said. “I intend to make sure all parties get a fair shake. I can’t be bought and I’m not going to favor the right or the left.”
Today, Ketchum continues to practice law at Greene, Ketchum, Bailey, Walker, Farrell & Tweel in Huntington, where he is the senior partner. He has been recognized continuously since 1989 in The Best Lawyers in America.
In addition to his practice of law, Ketchum served as chairman of the board of governors of Marshall University. He also continues to serve as a board member for the Public Defender Corp. for the Sixth and 24th judicial circuits. He also has served on the Huntington Urban Renewal Authority, participated in the Vision Shared Health Care Team, a statewide program developed toward reducing the medically uninsured in West Virginia, and has been appointed to the Mine Safety Task Force by Gov. Joe Manchin.
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Candidates for two Supreme Court seats tout strengths
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