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Mingo judge post remains unfilled

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Under state law, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin had 30 days, starting Dec. 17, to appoint a new circuit court judge in Mingo County.

On Thursday, the governor still hadn't announced a replacement to fill the vacancy created when Michael Thornsbury resigned before pleading guilty to a federal charge. As of Friday, that will mark 73 days.

"The Governor shall make the appointment to fill the vacancy, as required by this article, within thirty days following the receipt of the list of qualified candidates or within thirty days following the vacancy, whichever occurs later," state law says.

The state Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission recommended two Mingo County public defenders to the governor on Dec. 17 to fill the position until the primary election in May.

Amy Shuler Goodwin, Tomblin's communications director, didn't return a phone call Thursday afternoon.

John Cummings, a senior status judge from Cabell County, and Thomas McHugh, a retired state Supreme Court justice, have been filling in since August, when a federal grand jury indicted Thornsbury.

Thornsbury resigned from the position before pleading guilty in October to a felony charge. 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.

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.

The lack of an appointment is also preventing a Mingo magistrate position from being filled.

Former Mingo chief magistrate Dallas Toler resigned in October, hours before he was charged with one-count of voter registration fraud.

State Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin temporarily appointed senior status magistrates Joey Kohari, of Mingo County, and Kim Blair, of Putnam County, to fill in for Toler.

Normally, the county's chief circuit judge would decide a new magistrate. There's only one circuit judge in Mingo County.

State Supreme Court administrator Steve Canterbury has said that justices had determined McHugh and Cummings could make an appointment, but didn't want to.

"They aren't from Mingo and, as a result, they really don't know the pool of applicants and don't feel they could make the best informed decision," Canterbury said at the time.

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

 


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