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Richard Neely

Richard Neely.jpg

A.B. Dartmouth College 1964 (economics) 
LL.B. Yale Law School 1967

Employment History
Captain, U.S. Army Artillery, Vietnam 1967-1969 
Practicing Lawyer, Fairmont, WV 1969-1973 
Member, WV House of Delegates, 1971-1973 
Justice & Chief Justice, WV Supreme Court of Appeals 1973-1995
Partner, Neely & Callaghan, Lawyers 1995-2020 a firm concentrating on difficult litigation issues in both State and Federal Courts, usually for Plaintiffs 
General Counsel, Charleston Gazette 2012-2018
General Counsel, WiLine Networks, Inc. 2016-present


Elected Offices
WV House of Delegates
WV Supreme Court of Appeals

Community Activities, Awards and Honors
Bronze Star, U.S. Army Artillery, Republic of Vietnam 1969

Tell voters why you believe you should be a West Virginia Supreme Court justice.
America is embroiled in a crisis of deepening corruption. A self-reinforcing spiral of regulatory capture, self-dealing and influence-peddling has led to intensely concentrated power that is at once economic and political. That concentrated power has rigged the rules that define the structure of America’s democracy and economy to the advantage of the powerful at the expense of ordinary Americans. This has deprived us of our most vital means of collective self-defense: meaningful democratic control over the institutions that shape our lives. Unless we fight to unrig the system, millions of us will continue to live and die on the terms of unaccountable power. 


The Courts are part of our “collective self-defense” yet they are threatened by the same forces of concentrated power, including a highly political U.S. Supreme Court, that affect the other institutions of government. Out-of-State corporate money appearing in the form of §527 PAC’s arising from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United is designed to overwhelm true democratic forces through massive media buys in down-ballot court races where voters have little understanding of the issues. 


Real courts, however, that haven’t been bought can still fight back: For example, in order to defeat the widespread arbitration clauses employers force upon their employees, the California Supreme Court has authorized employment cases to be brought in the name of the State of California, which makes those cases immune from being thrown out of court because of “arbitration agreements.” I pledge to use the courts at every opportunity to return control of this country to the working people.



What qualities do you believe are most important in a Supreme Court justice?  Explain how you believe you possess those qualities.
A Supreme Court justice should have an expansive knowledge of American society and the economic, political and sociological forces that drive it. I was trained in Economics and have written seven successful books on how our system works, including How Courts Govern America, Yale University Press, 1980, and I taught economics to undergraduates beginning when I was at Yale going through being a full professor of economics at University of Charleston. In addition I have held a faculty position at Harvard and been a member of he Yale Law School Executive Committee. Being a judge of a state's highest court not only involves deciding individual cases, but also expanding the law to solve new and evolving problems. I study these problems all the time and frequently write about them in publications like the Charleston Gazette and the West Virginia Lawyer; when I was younger I wrote for the Atlantic Monthly and the Wall Street Journal. And, as general counsel for WiLine Networks, Inc.-- a high tech Silicon Valley-based, national wireless Internet provider--I think all the time about the problems of automation and the future of middle class workers in the coming decade.



Why should voters elect you rather than your opponents?
I am endorsed by the AFL/CIO, the United Mine Workers, the teachers, and the School Service Personnel who all have professional leaders who know my track record of defending women, children and ordinary workers. I invented the "primary caretaker parent" standard in child custody cases to protect women from unjustified custody fights designed to cheat them out of child support and I wrote the opinions that closed the Dickensian mental hospital at Weston and the brutal Pruntytown Reform School for Boys.


In your opinion, what has been the greatest accomplishment of your legal career?
Protecting women and children by inventing the "primary caretaker parent rule" and closing abusive and brutal public institutions like Pruntytown School for Boys.

How would you prepare yourself to handle cases involving unfamiliar areas of the law?
I read all the time: I subscribe to (1) the Wall Street Journal; (2) the Atlantic Monthly; (3) the New York Times; (4) the New Republic; (5) the Washington Monthly; (6) the New York Review of Books; and (7) the London Review of Books.



Do you believe that justices have a responsibility to improve public understanding of the courts?  If so, how should they carry out that obligation?
When I was on the Supreme Court, I usually spoke to the school children who toured the Court during the year and in the course of a 45 minute lecture explained how the courts work. These days when everyone has his or her nose in a phone, it is difficult to find an audience who wants to learn about what used to be called "civics." I frequently appear on the radio explaining complicated public issues, but judges can't do this job as well as good high school civics teachers. Unfortunately, less and less "civics" is now taught in schools, bu I have always lectured wherever I have been invited-- most recently at South Charleston High School and Shepard College.



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 regard to access, the answer is definitely "no." The greatest barrier to access is that law, as a commodity, is expensive to produce. Lawyers don't just magically produce litigation to help those in need: rather, litigation takes computers, secretaries, paralegals to do research, postage stamps, fax machines, e-mail and Internet connections, books and travel facilities-- all of which is expensive. Most general practice lawyers do a lot of free work when they see someone in trouble, but a sizeable portion of the bar doesn't because not being "street lawyers" they don't see the needs out there up close and personal. Like so much in public life, it all boils down to the needs outpacing the resources available to meet those needs. It is extremely important, then, that the courts review carefully cases where persons have had court appointed lawyers to make sure that losing the case was not a direct result of incompetency of counsel.



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?
As stated the answer to my answer to the question would be "no." If by major we mean someone like Don Blankenship who put millions of dollars into electing Brent Benjamin to defeat Darrel McGraw, my answer would be "yes," but I recently received a $2000 campaign contribution from the AFL/CIO. Is that a "major"contribution, and if so it would be very difficult for me to recuse myself from every case raising any labor issue. In a small State where judges know large numbers of persons who regularly litigate, we simply need to trust judges to put aside personal relations unless specifically covered by the Code of Judicial Responsibility and act fairly. I frequently was required to decide a case against a party with whom I had a relationship.

As a Supreme Court justice, what recommendations would you make to improve the administration and management of West Virginia’s judicial system?
First, I would return the Court to observing the procedure for appeals set forth in Art 8, Secton 4 of the State Constitution. That will eliminate the 19 to 28 month delay in processing cases through the Court and restore speedy justice. Second, I would inaugurate a corps of special masters to hear abuse and neglect cases in the urban areas where circuit judges are busy and abuse and neglect cases dominate about 35 percent of the docket. Judges who are worn down with cases that they don't like don't have the time to give distraught families the time necessary to sort out abuse problems or the the attention to end hopeless situations quickly so as to get abused children into forever homes.

In your opinion, what is the best movie, television program or book ever set inside a courtroom and why?
The old television program "The Defenders" from the early '60s was about the best program ever produced dealing with law and courts in my opinion, but there have been many excellent TV dramas and movies as well.

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