Williamson Daily News - City Visited by High Court Hopeful
Menis Ketchum is one three candidates up for one of the two open seats on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. Ketchum is back on the campaign trail in preparation for November's general election and stopped by Williamson to speak with the Daily News Friday.
By PAMELA SCOTT JOHNSON
Menis Ketchum may be seeking one of the seats available on the West Virginia Supreme Court in November, but he says he's not a politician.
Ketchum told the Daily News recently that if elected, he will not run for reelection.
"I will never run again," Ketchum said. "I will just be there for the 12 years and I plan to stay in there and I don't plan to make speeches or politic."
This is a personal choice for Ketchum. He said he doesn't want the worry of hearing a case and wondering if a decision he makes ruins his chances of being reelected.
"I am running for one term. Period, end of story," he declared.
The Huntington lawyer said he will work to make sure all the people in West Virginia have their appeals heard. One of the main reasons he said he is seeking the office is because he doesn't think the court is working.
"They are on vacation," Ketchum said of the current justices. "This year alone, they have been out three months and 22 days. That doesn't count holidays and state holidays. As a result the people aren't getting their appeals heard."
He pointed out that "somebody's divorce case is as important to them as a $300 million verdict against Massey."
"It is their life and I just think the court needs to get back to work like the rest of Americans," he said,
Ketchum also felt the high court was not impartial in some of its rulings, favoring certain lawyers.
"The court has got to be impartial and not favor lawyers or certain parties," Ketchum said. "The average working men and women and small businesses need a fair shake, too. The Supreme Court Justice should be held to a much higher standard."
If chosen in the general election, Ketchum said he will be ready to go to work on day 1, but don't look for immediate changes. Ketchum thinks it will take two years or more to go in the direction he would like.
"I think the first thing we do is stop taking so much time off," he explained. "Second, we start acting judicial and stop fighting with one another. And third, is to bring that down to the circuit court level."
Ketchum praised the work ethic of Mingo County Circuit Court Judge Mike Thornsbury.
"You are lucky in Mingo County. You've got Judge Thornsbury," Ketchum said. "All he does is work. What if you called the circuit court and were told Judge Thornsbury won't be back for three months? You are lucky, he works everyday."
Ketchum disagrees with two decisions passed down recently by the court of appeals, one of those against Fletcher Mining Equipment.
The company designs roof bolts for mines.
A class-action suit was brought against it in Mingo County.
Fletcher created "dust catchers" for the top of the roof bolts.
Although plaintiffs admitted the company made the dust catchers in compliance with federal law, they complained they were not good enough and causing workers to get sick.
"(Fletcher) can only make them pursuant to federal law," Ketchum said. "Judge Thornsbury dismissed the case and told the plaintiffs they didn't have a case because Fletcher made the catchers a certain way by federal law."
Ketchum said the plaintiffs appealed and the Supreme Court said that "even though everyone admitted they made them as they were required to do, they could still be sued because they might be able to make them better."
"That's bad for our miners, because if you have suits like that, it keeps people from working and I want miners working," he stated.
Along with 41-years of experience as a litigator, Ketchum hopes to bring to the office what he says is more trial and appellate advocacy experience that all the other candidates combined.
"I will neither be a plaintiff's judge or a defendant's judge nor an activist with a personal or a social agenda," he said. "I will continue to do what I have done; to evaluate the facts and to even-handedly apply the law."
His main concern is that voters in West Virginia are not satisfied with the two presidential candidates and will not turn out to vote in November.
"I need their votes," he said.