Chafin hopes the court, and legislators, assess how the revamped rules have performed before deciding whether to revisit them or go farther to ensure fairness. But Chafin's main focus has been to safeguard against conflicts of interest among the judiciary. Chafin has proposed a new process for deciding when recusal is necessary, and calls for greater disclosure of communications between judges or justices and parties in a pending case.
But Chafin also believes some of the complaints about the courts have been unfair.
"The feedback that I get is, people like and trust their local court system," Chafin said. "When you talk more broadly, about the courts in general, when you talk about the faceless court system, that's where the perception comes in."
Yoder, a judge in the Eastern Panhandle, agreed the perception is partly unfair but said "we have to pay more attention to that perception and address it, because it affects whether businesses come to this state and create jobs."
Concluding that the revamped rules fall short, Yoder echoed calls from the U.S. Chamber and others for an intermediate appeals court. He also believes that if West Virginia sticks with judicial elections, it should make them nonpartisan. But he also cited the Democrats' current four-justice majority on the court.
"If we had another Republican, at least one other Republican, then there would be more of a perception that it's balanced and not too liberal," Yoder said. "There are decisions that are political and inconsistent. I think it's been getting better. I still think there's a lot of room for improvement."
Loughry said voters hold an unfavorable view of West Virginia elected officials generally, but such a view is unfair to many who seek office in the state. But Loughry also believes that corruption persists.
"I understand why people are frustrated with our political system. The perceptions of people quickly become a reality until we can change those perceptions," he said. "How a judge interprets the law is critically important to people's lives, and when people do not have confidence in the system, it is seen as just another political branch of government."