Supreme Weekly: Election fever - Races in Mississippi, Montana, Washington and West Virginia
by Katy Farrell
We're continuing our coverage of the 2012 elections, examining the landscape for state Supreme Courts in the 2012 elections. This week, we will look into races in Washington, Mississippi, Montana, and West Virginia.
This week, Governor Chris Gregoire appointed Steven Gonzalez to the Washington Supreme Court. He will succeed Gerry Alexander, who must retire due to his age. Gonzalez is currently a judge on the King County Superior Court. At the time of his appointment, Gonzalez said, "It has been a great honor to serve on the State Superior Court for the last ten years. I thank Governor Gregoire for the opportunity to now serve on the State Supreme Court. I have known and admired Justice Alexander for twenty years, and it is a privilege to follow in his footsteps with his colleagues on the Supreme Court." 
Though there was no mention of next year's election, one can imagine that part of the appointment was a willingness to continue serving past 2012. In Washington, appointed judges must run for the seat in the next general election, and if elected, serve the remainder of the unexpired term.
Interestingly, a writer for the Seattle Times interviewed former justice Richard Sanders in May, when he was considering seeking the appointment. Sanders was unseated in the 2010 election by now-Justice Charles Wiggins. 
In fact, the only candidate that has declared for the high court is a former prosecutor and executive from Pierce County. John Ladenburg originally intended to run for attorney general, but said, "I spent months deliberating but I feel confident in my decision. The Supreme Court needs candidates with broad experience in law."
- See also: Washington judicial elections, 2012
On Monday, Justice George Carlson announced that he will not seek re-election to his seat when his term expires in January 2013. Carlson has served on the Mississippi Supreme Court since 2001, when he was appointed by Governor Ronnie Musgrove. Carlson's retirement leaves an open seat for next year's election. 
Judicial candidates do not need to qualify for office until May 11, 2012, so no candidate has formerly declared for the court yet. 
Since no one has announced an intention to run, we can only speculate about who will seek re-election. It is almost certain that Justice Leslie King will run for his seat on the court, since he was appointed early this year by Governor Haley Barbour. Chief Justice William Waller has been serving on the court the longest out of those up for re-election; he joined the court in 1996. However, Waller is still young (he will be 60 at the time of the election) and unless he has other ambitions, is most likely going to continue on the court. Justice Mike Randolph is also young, and has only served on the court since 2005.
With the announced retirement of Carlson, the three incumbent justices also have a pretty good chance to not be challenged for re-election. Interested parties would most likely run for an open seat, since incumbents have an advantage in any election.
- See also: Mississippi judicial elections, 2012
Though candidate filing is still two months away, two candidates have announced their intention to compete for seat of retiring Justice James Nelson. In September, Ed Sheehy put forth his candidacy. Sheehy is an attorney in Missoula with experience in both private practice and public service. For five years, he has served with the Office of the State Public Defender. As to his decision to run, Sheehy said, "I have a lot of respect for attorneys and judges, and the people because of my interest in justice. The reason why I’m doing this is the Supreme Court is the last place where you can get justice." 
Last week, another candidate declared for the race. Elizabeth Best is an attorney in Great Falls. Best has also worked in public service and private practice. She began her career practicing law as a member of the United States Army, and now owns a law practice with her husband. In announcing her candidacy, she said, "I bring perspective and I have a strong belief in public service and constitutional right of access to justice. I think I can serve Montana and its citizens well." 
Justice Brian Morris will need to run for re-election in November 2012, since his term expires that year. He was elected to the court in 2004 and has served only one term. One could assume that he will seek re-election.
- See also: Montana judicial elections, 2012
Two seats on the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia will also be up for election in 2012. To one, Chief Justice Robin Jean Davis will seek re-election. The other, held by Justice Thomas E. McHugh, will be an open race. In June, McHugh announced that he will not seek re-election at the end of his current term.
So far, two candidates have declared for the seat of McHugh. Letitia "Tish" Chafin, former president of the West Virginia State Bar, is seeking the Democratic nomination.  Also running is Allen Loughry, a Supreme Court attorney. Loughry also wrote a book called "Don't Buy Another Vote, I Won't Pay for a Landslide", which details unethical behavior by politicians in West Virginia. 
Next year will also mark the first time that Supreme Court candidates are eligible for public funds. Though the West Virginia Legislature did not approve a new law to raise funds for the program, state officials still plan to offer funding to candidates. In order to participate, candidates must first raise $35,000-50,000 from more than 500 West Virginia voters. This provision is designed to gauge the seriousness of candidates, and root out any non-viable contenders. If a candidate raises that amount, she or he can receive up to $200,000 for a contested primary race and up to $350,000 for the general election. (These amounts may vary based on fundraising prior to receiving public funds and the amount left over after the early contest.) 
Citizens for Clean Elections has been a huge proponent of this program and is even accepting contributions to help fund races.
- See also: West Virginia judicial elections, 2012
- Supreme Weekly: Election fever - Races in Alabama, Oregon and Georgia
- Judicial elections, 2012
- Judgepedia's Supreme Weekly: The States
- ↑ Office of the Washington Governor, Press Release: "Gov. Gregoire appoints Supreme Court Justice," November 15, 2011
- ↑ Supreme Court of Washington Blog, "Richard Sanders may seek another Supreme Court seat," May 17, 2011
- ↑ The Olympian, "Ladenburg drops AG big, aims for Supreme Court," June 29, 2011
- ↑ WDAM.com, "Justice Carlson announces plans to retire at end of term," November 14, 2011
- ↑ Mississippi Secretary of State, 2012 Elections Calendar
- ↑ Independent Record, "Ed Sheehy to run for Montana Supreme Court justice," September 10, 2010
- ↑ Great Fall Tribune, "Great Falls attorney files for Montana Supreme Court," November 10, 2011
- ↑ West Virginia Gazette, Blog: Squawk Box, "Tish Chafin to run for state Supreme Court," June 8, 2011
- ↑ West Virginia Gazette, Blog: Squawk Box, "Author of 'Don't Buy Another Vote...' running for Supreme Court," July 13, 2011
- ↑ Charleston Daily Mail, "Eyes on legality of public financing for Supreme Court candidates," October 30, 2011
|This article was written by Katy Farrell, the Editor of Judgepedia. She can be reached at email@example.com.|