Suffering from the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease, Warren R. McGraw, who has served the citizens of his native Wyoming County for 55 years as a lawyer, politician and judge, announced his resignation from the circuit court bench late Thursday afternoon.
“It is with great regret and sadness that … I must retire as Circuit Court Judge of the 27th Judicial Circuit,” McGraw wrote in his resignation letter to Gov. Jim Justice.
As a result of his physical impairments due to Parkinson’s, McGraw said that “it has become too difficult to fulfill the duties of Judge in this great state of West Virginia.”
Parkinson’s Disease is a brain disorder that leads to shaking, stiffness and difficulty with walking, balance and coordination. Its symptoms usually begin gradually and then progress over time when victims may have difficulty walking and talking.
In 2008, McGraw was elected to the Twenty-Seventh Judicial Circuit Court, which presides over Wyoming County. He won reelection in 2016 when he ran unopposed for another eight-year term.
He also was no stranger to politics. A Democrat, he served five terms in the West Virginia Legislature, two in the House and three in the Senate, the last as Senate President.
Before riding the circuit court, McGraw served as a judge for the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals from 1998 to 2004 when he lost one of the more hotly contested and highly contentious judicial races in state history.
McGraw had been targeted by mining executives, business interests and physicians groups, which ran ads castigating him for a 3-2 majority decision by the court that allowed a convicted child molester, Tony D. Arbaugh Jr., to stay on probation.
Arbaugh, who was was a victim of childhood sexual abuse, had been convicted of sexually molesting a half brother.
McGraw lost to Republican Brent Benjamin, a Charleston lawyer and political newcomer with 20 years in private practice, much of it defending corporate clients. Benjamin outpolled McGraw, 53 percent to 47 percent.
Don Blankenship, chief executive of Massey Energy Co. at the time, had contributed $1.7 million to a $2.5 million campaign war chest raised by McGraw’s critics. Massey was one of the largest employers in the state and was expected to have several cases on appeal before the state Supreme Court in the upcoming session.
McGraw was part of a majority on the five-member court during his six years on the bench that frequently sided with workers in compensation cases.
McGraw, a former civil rights lawyer, opposed strip mining as a state lawmaker.
His brother, Darrell McGraw, served as the state’s attorney general for five terms after having served a 12-year term on the state Supreme Court of Appeals – the only person to have held both offices.
McGraw received his undergraduate degree from Morris Harvey College (now the University of Charleston), a graduate degree from West Virginia University and then his J.D. from the Wake Forest University School of Law.
McGraw set June 21 as the date of his retirement – the state's 158th birthday.