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Wheeling News-Register - "Margaret Workman Seeks Return to W.Va. Supreme Court"

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Location: Wheeling, WV

Margaret Workman knows she already has a permanent place in West Virginia's history.

In 1988, she was the first woman elected to the state Supreme Court — as well as the first woman elected to any statewide office in the Mountain State.

Now, 20 years later, she wants to return to the court, which now boasts another woman as a member. A second female attorney also is seeking one of the two justice seats up for election this year.

If both are elected, Democrat Workman and Republican Beth Walker would join current Justice Robin Davis on the court, establishing a female majority on the five-member court.

Still, Workman said getting elected in 2008 won't be any less difficult than it was in 1988.

"It wasn't easy the first time, and it won't be this time," she said. "Anytime you run in a statewide race it is difficult and time consuming. You have to travel the state and tell voters why they should they pick you. There is a lot of communication involved, and you see people from all over the state."

Workman, 60, is a Boone County native and comes from a coal mining family. She currently practices law in Charleston and is the mother of three college-age children. It was her desire to stay home with her children that led her to leave the court in 2000. She also made an unsuccessful run for Congress in 2002.

Workman said she has been involved with politics since she was a college student at West Virginia University in the late 1960s. Among her experience is working on the campaign staff of U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

‘‘Politics is more cynical and negative now, and people don't like that,'' Workman said. ‘‘The way to put yourself in a leadership position is to work toward ideas.''

Workman served with 13 different justices during her tenure on the court. She said that while there was debate among the justices on some issues, arguments were never personal.

"As a court we have only one thing to rely on, and that's the respect of people. It's important that members of the court conduct themselves at a highest level so that people can respect the court system," she said.

In addition to Workman and Walker, the other candidates for Supreme Court are Democratic men — incumbent Elliott "Spike" Maynard, Menis Ketchum and Robert Bastress. But Workman realizes that, theoretically, there could be three women on the court one year from now.

"It's always wonderful when women occupy positions of authority," she said. "While I'm not permitted to endorse anybody, I most often do favor Democratic nominees. However, I have met the Republican nominee, and she seems like a high-standing lawyer.

"I would love to see more women run for office," she added. "Anytime you have half the population not involved in the political process, it's waste of talent."

Workman added she would bring to the bench what she brought in 1988 — ‘‘a strong reputation of fairness and integrity,'' according to Workman.

‘‘I don't go in with any preconceived notions,'' she said. ‘‘I truly believe everybody should have their fair shake in court. I know there are judges whose minds are already made up when they go into the court. That's not the way I am.''

Workman said she is proud of the fact she never has received an award from either the trial lawyers or defenders associations.

‘‘If you do, it probably means you're not doing something right,'' she said.

But Workman has received numerous awards from other groups, including the Florence Crittendon Award for her work on behalf of children; the West Virginia University College of Law Justitia Officium Award for her contributions to the legal profession; and honorary degrees from the University of Charleston and West Virginia State College. She also spearheaded the development of the statewide Court Appointed Advocates for Children in West Virginia and received the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Association Excellence in Criminal Justice Award for her work on behalf of child crime victims.

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