West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Evan Jenkins announces surprise resignation

Much attention has been paid to the recent retirement announcement of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and who will ultimately be nominated by President Joe Biden to be the liberal jurist’s successor on the nation’s highest court.

Another Supreme Court resignation was announced this week, albeit for a member of West Virginia’s highest state court, and now all eyes in that region have turned to see who Gov. Jim Justice (R) will name as a replacement, according to the Associated Press.

The unexpected resignation announcement, which was effective as of Sunday, came from Chief Justice Evan Jenkins, who was first nominated to the high court in 2018 as a replacement for an impeached justice who resigned in disgrace, and Jenkins was later elected by voters to fill out the remainder of the term that expired in 2024.

Returning to private practice

According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Justice Jenkins announced his decision to resign in a letter he sent to Gov. Justice Friday morning.

Calling his service on the high court a “distinct privilege and honor,” Jenkins wrote that he was “grateful for the opportunity you and the voters of West Virginia gave me to make a positive contribution to the state throughout the judicial system.”

“I joined the Supreme Court with a clear and specific promise to work every day to fix the problems of the past, follow the Constitution, and restore the public’s trust in our highest court,” he continued.

Jenkins proceeded to outline some of the accomplishments made during his tenure and specifically thanked his “professional staff and 1,500 dedicated judicial employees” in the state for helping him make that progress, and stated, “I am now confident that stability and reform have been achieved.”

He concluded, “After a great deal of prayer and careful consideration with my family, I have decided to return to the practice of law and put my years of state and federal experience to work promoting job-creating economic development projects and championing the issues I so deeply believe will benefit the people of West Virginia.”

Special commission to help governor pick replacement

Gov. Justice issued a statement of his own Friday in acceptance of Jenkins’ resignation and said, “Evan has devoted his entire life to public service and, on behalf of all West Virginians, we thank him.”

“It was one of my highest honors to appoint Evan to our Supreme Court in 2018 and, since then, he and his colleagues have restored honor and integrity to our court,” the governor added. “I look forward to appointing a new justice who can fill his shoes and carry the torch of honor and integrity well into the future.”

The Gazette-Mail noted that the Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission would solicit and interview applicants for the position before eventually providing a list of at least three finalist candidates for Gov. Justice to choose from in appointing a temporary successor for Jenkins.

That individual would then face a special election later this year for voters to decide if the appointee should serve out the remainder of Jenkins’ term.

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