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Daily Mail Capitol - "Candidates say court needs change, energy"

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Daily Mail Capitol - "Candidates say court needs change, energy"

Menis Ketchum and Margaret Workman, two Democratic candidates for state Supreme Court, say they have different fixes for the drop in the court's work product cited by a fellow candidate.

Ketchum wants another level of judiciary for the state while Workman believes the court needs an energy boost.

Bob Bastress, a West Virginia University law professor and another Democratic candidate for the court, announced Thursday the results of his review of court statistics.

He said justices granted only 11 percent of all appeals filed with the court in 2006. In 2000, the court granted 52 percent of the appeals, meaning justices deemed the appeals worthy of full review.

The number of opinions issued to settle appeals has dropped from 324 in 1999 to 121 in 2006, Bastress said. He told West Virginia MetroNews he would improve supervision and oversight of appeals if elected.

Ketchum, a Huntington lawyer, said the state should consider creating four intermediate appellate courts in Morgantown, Beckley, Charleston and in the Eastern Panhandle.

These kinds of courts would fully consider each appeal before sending them on to a superior court for final decision.

Bastress, in his analysis, also cited the lack of an intermediate appellate court system in the state. West Virginia is one of only 10 states without such a system.

Ketchum said voters changed the state Constitution in 1974 to give the state judiciary the authority to reorganize. He said this amendment would allow for the intermediate court system.

As it is now, the average person can't afford to hire a lawyer to travel to Charleston to present an appeal to the Supreme Court, he said.

"I would personally lobby the other justices and the Legislature to consider and adopt the intermediate courts of appeals," he said. "It's only fair to the average citizen."

He added, "It's a real shame that the public authorized these when it amended the constitution and nothing's been done. It hasn't even been considered. Courts are made for litigants, citizens, not just for rich people that can afford to go to the Supreme Court."

Ketchum didn't know how much adding an intermediate appellate court system would cost, but he didn't feel it would be prohibitive.

Workman, a Charleston lawyer and former justice, believes another level of judiciary would be beneficial, but she doubts the state has the financial resources to pay for it.

"I haven't done any heavy research on how much that would cost, but I believe it would have an extremely high price," Workman said.

She said if she were elected to the Supreme Court, her votes on whether or not to grant appeals would be shaped by her belief that the court should be open and accessible.

"People deserve to have their cases reviewed," Workman said, adding that she would hope her votes would influence other four justices to take on more appeals.

She also pointed to what she called her campaign slogan: "Fairness, Integrity and Energy."

"And by 'energy,' I mean work hard," she said.

Chief Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard, a Democrat running for re-election, and Republican Beth Walker did not return telephone calls from the Daily Mail.

Maynard's and Larry Starcher's seats on the court are on the ballot this year. Starcher is not seeking re-election.

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