Justice at Stake saluted West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Friday for supporting a bill passed by the legislature to make permanent the public financing of state Supreme Court candidates. His acceptance allowed the bill to become law on May 1.
“This is a big step for West Virginia and for the cause of fair courts,” JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg said in a statement.
“Governor Tomblin has shown real leadership in ensuring that public financing for Supreme Court elections is here to stay in West Virginia. The Governor and the legislature have ensured that judges don’t have to raise money from parties who appear before them, and reassured West Virginians that judges can stay accountable to the law, not to special interests.”
The legislation was approved by the Senate on a 30-4 vote and by the House on a 70-29 vote. These actions came on the heels of a pilot public financing program that was considered successful in the 2012 state Supreme Court election.
Efforts to reform West Virginia’s judicial elections have been under way for almost a decade, since Don Blankenship, then-CEO of Massey Energy, spent $3 million in support of a Supreme Court justice who then proceeded to cast the deciding vote to overturn a $50 million verdict against Massey. Although the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately overruled the West Virginia Supreme Court, public confidence in West Virginia’s courts was eroded.
JAS backed the work of West Virginia Citizens for Clean Elections, a statewide coalition, to win passage of the public financing pilot program in 2010 and to advocate on behalf of making the program permanent.