W. Va. Lawmakers Approve Public Funding of Supreme Court Elections

West Virginia is set to become the fourth state to publicly finance elections to the state supreme court.

The legislature approved the financing pilot program proposed by Gov. Joe Manchin in a final vote this weekend, according to the Charleston Gazette and a press release by the Justice at Stake campaign.

Another bill approved by the legislature creates a nonpartisan commission to recommend judicial nominees to the governor when midterm vacancies occur.

Campaign contributions in the state got national attention when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year in a case involving a West Virginia Supreme Court justice who was elected with the help of more than $3 million in contributions from a coal mining executive. Caperton v. A. T. Massey Coal Co. held that due process required the West Virginia justice to recuse himself in a case involving his corporation.

Bert Brandenburg, executive director of Justice at Stake, referred to the case in the press release. “In 2004, West Virginia became a national symbol of the dangers of special-interest spending on court elections,” he said in the press release. “This weekend, the state moved to shed that unhappy legacy, becoming a national leader in preserving public trust in the courts.”

The American Bar Association is a partner in the Justice at Stake Campaign.

Prior coverage:

ABA Journal: “Caperton’s Coal”

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