Swearing-in ceremony set Jan. 4 for new W.Va. Supreme Court justice

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals announced Thursday that judge John A. Hutchison will be sworn in as a justice on Jan. 4th.

Hutchison will fill the seat formerly held by Allen Loughry, who resigned in November after being found guilty on 11 federal charges.

Hutchison has been serving as a circuit judge for the 10th Judicial Circuit in Raleigh County. He will serve as a justice until at least 2020 when a special election will determine who will fill the seat until 2024.


ORIGINAL STORY 12/12/18

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has appointed a Raleigh County judge to serve a temporary term on the state Supreme Court.

John A. Hutchison of Beckley was chosen on Wednesday to replace former Justice Allen Loughry, who resident in November after his conviction on 11 charges in federal court.

Hutchison will serve until a special election in 2020. The winner of that election will serve the remainder of Loughry's term through 2024.

In a news release, the Republican governor explained what led him to appoint Hutchison.

“I have known John Hutchison my entire life," he said. "He has been a Raleigh County Circuit Court Judge for 23 years and is one of the most conservative, respected jurists in the state of West Virginia. He has served on the state’s Mass Litigation panel since 1997. I spoke with some judges prior to making this appointment and they encouraged me to appoint a circuit judge to this position."

But not everyone was happy with the choice.

In a letter to Justice on Wednesday that also signed by two other senators and a senator-elect, all of them Republicans, State Senate President Mitch Carmichael urged the governor to appoint Putnam County prosecutor Mark Sorsaia to the seat.

In a statement separate from the letter, Carmichael called Sorsaia "a man of incredible legal credentials and a constitutionally conservative judicial philosophy."

"Throughout his winning campaign, one of the ways President Trump pledged to “Make America Great Again” was to bring to our courts constitutionally conservative judges who hold the word of law sacred and would not legislate from the bench," he said "At every opportunity and with every judicial nomination, President Trump has kept his word and delivered on his promise. As a result, our United States Supreme Court along with the entire judicial branch of government has grown stronger because of his judicial selections.

"After his outstanding initial judicial appointments, I had a great deal of optimism that Governor Justice would continue down the same path as President Trump. The citizens of West Virginia are profoundly and acutely aware of the negative impact that a single judge can have on the confidence of the judicial branch and upon the citizens of our state. When provided the opportunity, President Trump never misses the chance to improve the judicial branch with known and proven constitutionally conservative legal minds."

Meanwhile, also in a statement, Belinda Biafore, chairwoman of the state's Democratic party, said Justice should have picked Judge Joanna Tabit, who finished behind Evan Jenkins and Tim Armstead who were elected to the court in the November General Election.

"Governor Justice is doing what he does best, ignoring the people of West Virginia and moving forward with his own self-serving, corrupt agenda," Biafore said. "The people of West Virginia overwhelming voted for Joanna Tabit."

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