Judiciary: Armstead, Jenkins deserve your vote

Most people seeking public office are able to attract votes by pledging to spend government money on local needs ranging from highways to economic development. Candidates for judicial positions cannot do that.

They can promise only fairness, both to those who appear in court before them and to taxpayers.

Two candidates for the West Virginia Supreme Court, Tim Armstead and Evan Jenkins, are eminently qualified in that regard. The News and Sentinel endorses them both — Armstead in Division 1 on the Nov. 6 ballot and Jenkins in Division 2.

Both men are impeccably honest, as they have demonstrated in many years of public service. Armstead’s last post was as speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates. Jenkins’ was in the U.S. House of Representatives from our state’s 3rd Congressional District.

By the normal schedule of electing Supreme Court justices for 12-year terms, this election would not involve that office. It does because two justices, Menis Ketchum and Robin Davis, resigned earlier this year in the midst of a major scandal.

It involves incredible mismanagement at the state’s highest court, including some criminal activity. Ketchum pleaded guilty in federal court. Davis, though not accused of crimes, was knee-deep in a waste of the taxpayers’ scarce dollars. About half a million of them were spent to remodel her office.

Clearly, then, accountability and transparency are key issues in the Supreme Court race. Voters have an enormous field of candidates, 10 in each division, to consider. The winner in Division 1 will serve the remainder of Ketchum’s term, about two years. The Division 2 winner will serve out Davis’ term, about six years.

It says much about Jenkins and Armstead that Gov. Jim Justice appointed the two as interim justices after Davis and Ketchum resigned. At a time of crisis for the high court, the two were vetted by a special Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission, which concluded they were highly qualified to serve. On that panel are respected members of the legal profession, including, as ex-officio members, the president of the West Virginia Bar and the dean of the West Virginia University College of Law.

Armstead and Jenkins have justified the trust placed in them. They and other justices already have begun crafting reforms in response to outrage over past mismanagement.

Both men have long records of honorable service to West Virginians. They have served us well in multiple capacities.

Both men are dedicated firmly to interpreting the state constitution as it is — not as some would have them interpret it. Neither man agrees with the concept of an activist court usurping the lawmaking power of the Legislature.

And both Jenkins and Armstead have demonstrated dedication to spending taxpayers’ money frugally and wisely.

The two can be counted upon to help restore the trust Mountain State residents must have in our highest court. We recommend that voters in the Nov. 6 election choose Armstead and Jenkins for the Supreme Court.