Kristina "Kris" Raynes
1992 graduate, Salutatorian, Buffalo-Putnam High School
1996, B.A., cum laude, Criminal Justice, Marshall University
2000, J.D., University of Akron School of Law
2000-2006, Summit County Prosecutor's Office, Akron, Ohio - youngest prosecutor hired directly into the felony criminal division; handled felony criminal cases such as aggravated murder/death penalty, possession/trafficking of controlled substances, rape, robbery, burglary, etc.
2006-2008, Special Assistant United States Attorney for the United States Attorneys Office for the Southern District of West Virginia - handled high intensity drug trafficking and weapons cases through a federal grant
2008-present, Putnam County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, Winfield, West Virginia - handling felony preliminary hearings and criminal trials, with charges including but not limited to first degree murder, child sexual abuse, serious violent and property crimes and controlled substances felonies
2010-present, Municipal prosecutor in both Nitro and Winfield, West Virginia - provide on-call assistance with each city's police officers and handle municipal court prosecutions
I was elected to serve on both the Putnam County Republican Executive Committee and the West Virginia Republican Executive Committee in 2018.
Community Activities, Awards and Honors
1996 - John Deaver Drinko Community Service Award; 2017 - Putnam County Republican Woman of the Year; 2020 - Putnam County Outstanding Republican of the Year
Tell voters why you believe you should be a West Virginia Supreme Court justice.
In the last 20 years as a state and federal prosecutor, I made a career out of holding people accountable for their actions. As a Supreme Court Justice, I believe I can bring the skill set of a prosecutor to the bench, achieve a transparency of the Court and return accountability for the judiciary to the citizens of West Virginia.
What qualities do you believe are most important in a Supreme Court justice? Explain how you believe you possess those qualities.
I am a strong believer in the separation of powers and checks and balances in government. In my view, the judiciary is purely an arbiter of the law. It is important for the judiciary to remain a neutral party to every case, rather than to act as activist judges who legislate from the bench.
Why should voters elect you rather than your opponents?
I have proven my public service as a criminal prosecutor for 20 years. The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals is the court of last resort for criminal defendants in this State. For my entire career, I have tried to ensure that I have secured fair and just convictions for the defendants I prosecute. Criminal appeals and abuse and neglect appeals are the greatest majority of the cases that the Supreme Court hears on an annual basis. Those types of cases as solely handled by West Virginia's state prosecutors. The Court would benefit from having a prosecutor who has handled those types of cases on the trial level to review them on appeal.
In your opinion, what has been the greatest accomplishment of your legal career?
Advocating for victims of crime has been the most rewarding element of my career as a prosecutor. For 20 years I have been advocating for the poor, the oppressed, the abused, and the manipulated. Hearing from those victims themselves, or from their families if the victim has passed, and maintaining relationships with them after their cases were over has meant more to me than anything in the world.
How would you prepare yourself to handle cases involving unfamiliar areas of the law?
As lawyers, we all start out on the same footing, and we have all had to learn specific areas of law on the job. And depending on what type of case each of us works on, we have to learn different skill sets. In prosecuting theft cases from companies, I have had to learn that agency's accounting system. In prosecuting child pornography cases, I have had to learn the ins and outs of computer processing and internet tracking. My whole career has been about learning on the job in order to be able to explain that process to a jury. I see no difference in learning new aspects of the law that I have had a prior foundation for in law school already, even if I haven't applied them all in my 20 year career.
Do you believe that justices have a responsibility to improve public understanding of the courts? If so, how should they carry out that obligation?
The judiciary does have a responsibility to make sure that citizens are aware of their rights and the proceedings involving them. One of the core values sacred to every citizen is the right of due process - that no one can take away life, liberty or property without due process of law. The Supreme Court has been instrumental in addressing the opioid epidemic in our State, but I believe that it can address more issues facing our public. Other jurisdictions have instituted entities like "valor court" or "veterans' court" to assist veterans who have returned from their service addicted or "broken" due to PTSD. I believe it is our responsibility to help rehabilitate the men and women who served our country, and in that service, lost a little bit of themselves.
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?
With the public defender system and Legal Aid in West Virginia, I believe all citizens - no matter what their socioeconomic makeup is- can have adequate avenues in which to see their legal grievances addressed. However, poverty and access to transportation to certain necessities like court and employment could serve as an obstacle to that access. Also, our opioid crisis must be addressed in a meaningful way since employment, a person's well-being and the adequate treatment of children of addicts all come back to whether the addicts can remain sober.
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?
Judging a judicial candidate's partisanship based on campaign contributors alone may be a slippery slope. All candidates benefit from outside sources of funding, or else only the very wealthy would ever be able to run for office. The judicial candidate must be up front with his or her contributors to ensure that the right decision will be made according to the plain language of the law and intent of the framers and there can be no price on the judge's integrity. But if the financial assistance can be shown to have personally benefited the candidate in a significant way, it may be necessary for the judge to recuse.
As a Supreme Court justice, what recommendations would you make to improve the administration and management of West Virginia’s judicial system?
I think the voters of West Virginia took a big step in the right direction there by providing the legislature an opportunity to have budget oversight of the court. That is the way that the framers of our State and Federal constitutions had envisioned true equity between all three branches of government and that system still holds up today. Providing timely appeals and expediency in the Court's docket would also provide more judicial access to the citizens.
In your opinion, what is the best movie, television program or book ever set inside a courtroom and why?
"My Cousin Vinny" has always been the movie that I thought was the most accurate film when it came to criminal practice in the courtroom. It follows a novice (almost) lawyer through the arrest, initial appearance, arraignment, discovery process and ultimately the trial of his two innocent clients. It provides excellent training in the art of courtroom trial advocacy, especially eyewitness identification, cross-examination, and laying the foundation for an expert witness. In my years of teaching for the National District Attorneys Association, I have used this film and some spotlight scenes to teach young prosecutors all over the United States.