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Pair of public defenders recommended for Mingo judge

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission on Tuesday recommended two of the six applicants for Mingo County Circuit judge.

Teresa McCune and Jonathan "Duke" Wayne Jewell were the names given to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to consider. Both McCune and Jewell are public defenders in Mingo County.

Members of the judicial vacancy commission conducted interviews in Charleston on Monday to fill the position left vacant by Michael Thornsbury. He pleaded guilty in federal court Oct. 2 to conspiring to deprive a drug suspect of his legal rights in a scheme to thwart a federal investigation into the county's sheriff.

Thornsbury had served as the sole circuit judge in the 30th Judicial Circuit since 1997 and was re-elected to an eight-year term in 2008. Whoever Tomblin appoints will complete Thornsbury's term.

McCune has served as Mingo County's chief public defender since 1990. Jewell is a longtime public defender in Mingo.

Neither Jewell nor McCune could immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

Four others had applied for the position: Robert H. Carlton, Steven Johnston Knopp, Glen R. Rutledge II and Mingo Family Court Judge Miki Thompson. The commission could have recommended up to five people.

Carlton, a Williamson attorney, ran for Mingo Circuit judge in 2008, according to a campaign website. The former magistrate and assistant prosecutor also previously campaigned to be a family court judge in Mingo.

Knopp is the municipal judge in Williamson, according to the Governor's Office, and a member of the Williamson law firm Lambright and Knopp.

Rutledge is an assistant prosecuting attorney in Mingo and the attorney for the Mingo County Commission. He has a private law firm in Williamson.

Thompson has served as family court judge since 2009, according to her secretary.

Last week, former West Virginia Supreme Court candidate Letitia Neese Chafin took her name out of the running for the appointment.

Also Tuesday, members of the commission recommended Deloris Nibert for Putnam County Family Court judge.

Nibert, a former family court judge in Mason and Jackson counties, was the only applicant for the position. She has been filling in for William Watkins since January. In March, the state Supreme Court suspended Watkins without pay until the end of his term in 2016. He resigned last month.

Members of the Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission include Morgantown attorney Debra Scudiere; Charleston accountant Steve Robey; Kenny Perdue, president of the West Virginia AFL-CIO; Joyce McConnell, dean of the WVU College of Law; Peter Markham, general counsel for Tomblin's office; State Bar President Harry Deitzler; Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper; former House of Delegates Minority Leader Charles Trump, of Morgan County; Huntington businessman Doug Hardman; Huntington attorney Bert Ketchum; and Wheeling businessman Don Wagenheim.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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