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Jennifer Bundy  - (304) 340-2305

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Supreme Court of Appeals
State of West Virginia


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    Jennifer Bundy
April 8, 2009    (304) 340 - 2305

Governor appoints Justice McHugh to Supreme Court

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  Governor Joe Manchin III today appointed Justice Thomas McHugh to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia created by the March 20 death of Justice Joseph Albright.

Justice McHugh had been sitting by designation as Senior Status Justice on the Supreme Court since September 11, 2008, when then-Chief Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard appointed him to serve during the illness and recovery of Justice Albright. Chief Justice Brent Benjamin reappointed him on January 1, 2009, for the same purpose. After Justice Albright’s death, Chief Justice Benjamin appointed him to serve in Justice Albright’s position until the Governor named a replacement.

Justice McHugh will serve on the Court until the 2010 general election, at which time a candidate will be elected to serve the remainder of Justice Albright’s term, which ends in 2012.

Justice McHugh, 73, was elected to the Supreme Court in 1980 and was re-elected to a second twelve-year term in 1992. He served as Chief Justice in 1984, 1998, 1992, 1995 and 1996. He retired on December 31, 1997. After his retirement, he practiced law in the Charleston law firm of Allen Guthrie McHugh and Thomas. Since 2003 he had been of counsel and had restricted his practice to mediation.

Justice McHugh said, "I appreciate Governor Manchin’s appointment of me to succeed Justice Albright and fill his term on the Court. Both Governor Manchin and I realize how dedicated Justice Albright was to public service.

"Justice Albright’s staff and the Court staff, especially Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury and Supreme Court Clerk Rory Perry, have worked very hard to assist me," Justice McHugh said. "It is a privilege for me to continue working with the Justices of the Court.

"I wish to note the encouragement that my wife, Judy, and my family, as well as many members of the judiciary, have given me," Justice McHugh said. "It is my desire to serve the citizens of our state as a Supreme Court justice in an exemplary manner."

Governor Manchin said Justice Albright will be missed. He said he appreciated the fact that Justice Albright’s widow, Nancie Gensert Divvens Albright, and one of her daughters, Debbie Divvens Rake, attended the ceremony at which he announced Justice McHugh’s appointment.

Justice Albright "dedicated his life to public service and he was excellent at it," the Governor said. He recalled that he had served in the House of Delegates with Justice Albright, who was a member of the House from 1970 to 1972 and from 1974 to 1986 and was Speaker of the House from 1985 to 1986.

"While he will be truly missed, his many contributions to our state will not be forgotten," Governor Manchin said.

"Thomas McHugh was very considerate to step up to the plate and assist the Court while Justice Albright and his family were going through a difficult time, and once again Tom has been so kind to accept my appointment to serve again on the West Virginia Supreme Court," the Governor said.

Governor Manchin said he deviated from his established system for filling judicial vacancies because Justice McHugh is a man of "the highest caliber."

"This is the first time I have bypassed the process," Governor Manchin said. He thanked all those who expressed interest in the position for their willingness to serve. He said he was honest with them all, that his first choice was Justice McHugh if he could persuade him to accept the job.

"I knew in making this selection we needed a Justice tireless in his work, who wouldn’t miss a beat, but would hit the ground running," Governor Manchin said. He said the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia is the busiest appellate court of its type in the country, and it was necessary to appoint someone who had extensive judicial experience so the Court could keep up its busy schedule.

"I have never had a total consensus on a decision in my life as I did with this one," Governor Manchin said.

Justice McHugh joked that Governor Manchin is a very persuasive man.

According to state law, by taking the appointment, Justice McHugh must accept both his judicial pension and the Supreme Court salary of $121,000 a year. However, Justice McHugh is adamant that he will not be paid more than the other justices. Therefore, he intends to return to the State’s General Revenue Fund that part of his salary which, if he did not give it back, would otherwise mean he was making more than his colleagues on the bench.

Chief Justice Brent Benjamin said, "We appreciate the promptness of Governor Manchin’s appointment of Acting Justice McHugh to the position in which he has been so ably serving the people. This appointment helps underscore the stability and predictability of our Supreme Court. On a personal note, I am delighted to be able to continue working with my friend, Tom McHugh."

Justice Robin Jean Davis, who authored "A Tribute to Thomas E. McHugh: An Encyclopedia of Legal Principles from Opinions Written by Justice McHugh" for the West Virginia Law Review, said, "I had the privilege of working with Justice McHugh for over a year when I was first on the bench. He became a true friend and a painstaking mentor. So much of the success I’ve enjoyed as a Justice I owe to Tom McHugh. I am personally delighted that he has accepted the Governor’s appointment. It is a fine day for West Virginia’s judicial system and, indeed, for all of our citizens."

Justice Margaret Workman said, "I am so pleased that the Governor has appointed Justice McHugh. He brings institutional knowledge and a balanced outlook to all the issues, as well as immense integrity, compassion for people, and a strong work ethic. His presence has helped the Court’s recent transitions go smoothly and his work continues to strengthen the Court."

Justice Menis Ketchum said, "I think it’s a great appointment. He brings a calming influence, great work ethic and legal ability to our Supreme Court."

Justice McHugh was born in Charleston on March 26, 1936, and is a 1958 graduate of West Virginia University and a 1964 Distinguished Military Graduate of the West Virginia University College of Law. In law school he was a member of the Order of Coif, a legal honorary, and was associate editor of the West Virginia Law Review.

He served as a First Lieutenant in the United States Army from 1958 to1961.

He was a law clerk to West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Harlan Calhoun from 1966 to 1968. He was elected Judge in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County in 1974, re-elected in 1976, and served as chief circuit judge from 1974 to 1980.

Justice McHugh was President of the West Virginia Judicial Association in 1981-1982. He is a former member of the Judicial Review Board of West Virginia and was a member of the Visiting Committee of the West Virginia University College of Law from 1991 to 1995, serving as Chairman of that Committee from 1994 to 1995. He was a member of the Dean Search Committee of the West Virginia University College of Law from 1991 to 1992 and from 1997 to 1998.

He is the recipient of the Mountain Honorary, Distinguished West Virginian Award, the 1996 Special Award of Achievement in the Administration of Justice from The West Virginia State Bar, the 1996 Public Service Award from the Mountain State Bar Association, a 1998 Certification of Completion of Mediation Training from Duke University Private Adjudication Center, the 1998 Outstanding Achievement Award from the Kanawha County Bar Association, the 1998 Justicia Officium Award from the West Virginia University College of Law. Justice McHugh is a West Virginia Bar Foundation Fellow; Emeritus Member, Judge John A. Field, Jr., American Inns of Court. He is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. He is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Thomas Memorial Hospital. He is a member of the Fourth Circuit Judicial Conference.

He and his wife, Judy, have four children, Karen, Cindy, James, and John; seven grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.





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