B.A., Morris Harvey College (now University of Charleston), 1973
M.A., West Virginia University, 1975
J.D., West Virginia University, 1977
See resume' on my Website and at my Facebook, but:
1. Solo practitioner in Divorce and Family Law for 35 years; taught over 30 Family Law CLEs in WV, CO and CA; litigated in 44 of the WV's 55 counties; have been published in national professional journals; argued over 40 cases to the WV Supreme Court
2. Prosecuting Attorney, Braxton County, WV 1984 through 1988; prosecuting felonies and misdemeanors
3. Legal Services Coordinator for RESA IV, 1988-1989, dealt with special education litigation and grievances
4. Adjunct Professor of Business Law, Glenville State, 1993-1994, 1997-1998, and Fairmont State, 2003
5. Family Court Judge, Kanawha County, 2017 to Present, hold hearings and render judgments in all domestic relations matters, except adoptions and abuse and neglect cases.
1. Prosecuting Attorney, Braxton County
2. Family Court Judge, Kanawha County
Community Activities, Awards and Honors
1. WV Symphony, Officer and Member of Board of Directors
2. CCU Methodist, Church Council
3. Faculty Member, Lawyer Education Institute, CO
4. Best Lawyers, field of Family Law 1986
Tell voters why you believe you should be a West Virginia Supreme Court justice.
There are three justices on the current Supreme Court who have never: picked a jury, cross-examined a witness, presented an indictment to a grand jury, or argued a case as “first chair” to the Supreme Court on which they now sit. There are four justices on the present Supreme Court, and at least two other candidates in my Division 2, who have never tried a single contested grandparent rights' case, child custody case or even one-half dozen divorce cases from beginning to end. Since family law cases, such as grandparent cases, domestic violence and divorce touch everyone, a family lawyer and judge must be represented on the Supreme Court. Since I filed my pre-candidacy papers for the Supreme Court on June 6, 2019, there has been one obvious fact: The public can elect to the Supreme Court ANY circuit judge (there are 2 now on the Supreme Court, and 3 candidates), ANY former prosecutor, or ANY former Legislator, BUT the public can ELECT ONLY ONE FAMILY COURT JUDGE IN 2020... Judge Jim Douglas 4 Justice, Division 2, of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE.
What qualities do you believe are most important in a Supreme Court justice? Explain how you believe you possess those qualities.
1. A strong work ethic dedicated to a quality work product. I recognized long ago that the workday doesn't necessarily end at 5:00 p.m. In addition, I have known for quite awhile that the best advertisement for a professional was to do your best work every time, not just make do. These two (2) characteristics have served me well over a 43 year career in law; and,
2. Independence. When I represented some person in the past, or when I issued a hard decision, I cared little about what others thought who were not involved in the case; i.e., I was not a "people pleaser." What was the right thing to do was my only limitation and guide.
3. Academic honesty. I believe in following the law, but if social needs require an adapted approach to achieve social justice, then the law can be slowly modified to address those needs.
Why should voters elect you rather than your opponents?
1. Vast knowledge and experience in the field of family law over a 43-year period, both as a practitioner and a Family Court judge, as well as, an author and CLE instructor on the subject.
2. Practical experience in all other areas of the law, including being a prosecuting attorney and a special education lawyer.
3. I am not indebted by endorsement or financial contribution to an organization or special interest group.
4. This SCT needs someone who will stop and say, “But what about the kids?” Someone who will put the brakes on those justices with no family law experience.
In your opinion, what has been the greatest accomplishment of your legal career?
Winning custody in the Supreme Court of a young child for a non-related lesbian parent, when the biological mother/partner had been killed in an auto accident. See Clifford K. v. Paul S., 217 WV 625 (2005). No one would take the case in 2005.
How would you prepare yourself to handle cases involving unfamiliar areas of the law?
1. The "sweat principle";i.e., I would do my own research; and (2) rely on law clerks, as well.
Do you believe that justices have a responsibility to improve public understanding of the courts? If so, how should they carry out that obligation?
Yes. In 2018, I suggested some approaches to remove the spatial and symbolic distance between the public and the SCT. I repeat in 2020: Justices should be required as a matter of internal policy to attend (6) non-political functions across the State every year, not just election years; e.g., VFW dinners, Town Hall Meetings, High School graduations, etc. Secondly, the SCT should hold an argument docket in various Courthouses across WV, and not only in the larger cities, such as Wheeling, Martinsburg, Bluefield, but also, Sutton, Welch, Grantsville, being the county seats of the smaller counties; and, Thirdly, once a year, schedule a Media and Public Access Day, where under the right security conditions, members of the media and the public could come to the SCT's offices "behind the red curtains" in the East Wing of the Capitol, in order to get a sense of transparency.
Do you believe that all West Virginians have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? What do you believe is the greatest obstacle to justice, if anything?
Monied, special interest groups. No supreme court justice candidate or sitting justice should be permitted to take financial contributions from any attorneys, in-state corporations, or out-of-state organizations or legal entities, whether directly or through committees.
Would you be in favor of the Supreme Court adopting standard rules requiring the recusal of judges from cases involving a major campaign contributor or supporter? Why or why not?
Yes. As long a justices and judges in WV can receive ever increasing financial support and contributions from law firms, attorneys, out of State corporations, "dark money" organizations; and in-State special interests, there will always be a cloud over every decision that would favor one of those contributors. their principals, stockholders, or employees. All of us remember the embarrassment to our State involving Justice Benjamin in the Caperton case, wherein the US Supreme Court had to intervene.
As a Supreme Court justice, what recommendations would you make to improve the administration and management of West Virginia’s judicial system?
Bring in a professional and qualified Supreme Court Administrator, who was not an "insider". Seek to have introduced in the Legislature a proposed Constitutional amendment requiring a minimum number of years of practical experience in order to be a justice. We now have an age requirement. Finally, the SCT, through its Chief Justice, should be pro-active rather than reactive in any crisis, and seek to re-establish the equality of the judicial branch, and not, for example, "follow the Governor's lead."
In your opinion, what is the best movie, television program or book ever set inside a courtroom and why?
The 1959 movie "Anatomy of a Murder" with Jimmy Stewart, George C. Scott, Ben Gazzara and Lee Remick is the best courtroom drama. Reason: It accurately portrayed how a felony criminal trial was conducted, from pre-trial, jury selection, cross-examination to final argument. It was nominated for 1959 Best Picture but lost out to "Ben-Hur"