Hutchison named to vacancy on West Virginia Supreme Court
CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals is whole again after the appointment of Raleigh County Circuit Judge John Hutchison to the bench to replace Allen Loughry, who resigned.
Gov. Jim Justice announced the appointment of Hutchison Wednesday afternoon.
“I have known John Hutchison my entire life,” Justice said. “(Hutchison) is one of the most conservative, respected jurists in the state of West Virginia.”
Hutchison, a native of Beckley, has served in the 10th Judicial Circuit for 23 years starting in 1995. According to his biography on the Supreme Court’s website, he was appointed by former Gov. Gaston Caperton, then won election to the bench in 1996.
He graduated from Davis and Elkins College in 1972 with degrees in history and political science. In 1980, he graduated from the West Virginia University College of Law.
He returned to Beckley and worked for the Gorman, Sheatsley and Hutchison law firm until 1991, when he opened the Trial Division Office for Nationwide Insurance.
Hutchison has been active with Supreme Court initiatives, including serving on the Mass Litigation Panel and on the Commission to Study Residential Placement of Children. Hutchison has sat on the court during when justices recuse themselves.
Other circuit court judges have also placed their trust in Hutchison. Over the years he has served as treasurer, secretary, vice president, and president of the West Virginia Judicial Association.
The Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission received applications from 17 candidates for the seat vacated by Loughry when he resigned Nov. 12. Interviews were conducted with the candidates Tuesday, but it was Hutchison’s years of experience on the circuit court level that led Justice to making the appointment.
“I spoke with some judges prior to making this appointment and they encouraged me to appoint a circuit judge to this position,” Justice said. “I’m very pleased to appoint Judge Hutchison to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.”
Hutchison will fill the vacancy until a special election in 2020. The winner of the special election will serve until 2024 when the term ends.
Loughry, who was convicted of 11 felonies in federal court in October, resigned last month after lawmakers had planned to impeach him a second time. Loughry will be sentenced Jan. 18 in U.S. District Court.
Hutchison can be sworn in after 20 days from the date of the appointment. Even though judicial seats are nonpartisan, state Republican Party Chair Melody Potter released a statement praising Hutchison’s appointment.
“Congratulations to Judge John Hutchison on his appointment by Governor Jim Justice to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia,” Potter said “He brings decades of legal and judicial experience to the bench. This appointment by Gov. Justice is an important step in restoring faith in our state’s judicial branch of government.”
Belinda Biafore, chair of the state Democratic Party, accused Justice of playing politics with the appointment. Biafore said that Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Joanna Tabit, who came in second in the division 1 supreme court special election Nov. 6, should have been appointed. She lost to Justice Tim Armstead, whom the governor had appointed to replace former justice Menis Ketchum at the end of August.
“Gov. 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…with absolutely no disrespect to Justice’s appointee John Hutchinson, once again this appointment was made in spite of West Virginia voters.”