- Pictured left to right are U. S. District Court Judges John T. Copenhaver, Jr. and Thomas E. Johnston, Guest Speaker former WV Supreme Court Richard F. Neely, U. S. District Court Chief Judge Joseph R. Goodwin and U. S. Court of Appeals Judges Robert B. King amd M. Blane Michael.
- Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Louis H. Bloom is pictured with Judge Thomas E. Johnston during the Constitution Day event at the Federal Courthouse in Charleston.
On September 17, numerous events and ceremonies were held around West Virginia to celebrate Constitution Day. The federal law which declared that Constitution Day would be a time to remember and honor our constitutional freedoms was spearheaded by U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd. At the Federal Courthouse in Charleston, the U.S. District Court, with Chief Judge Joseph R. Goodwin presiding, held a public event that included a video message from Senator Byrd, thought provoking remarks by the Guest Speaker, former WV Supreme Court Justice Richard F. Neely, memorable music, the ringing of bells for freedom and the distribution of pocket constitutions for the large crowd in attendance.
Earlier in September, the Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program Advisory Committee held its quarterly meeting. The group, chaired by Tom Flaherty(Charleston), consists of diverse individuals from the judicial system, lawyers, legal aid entities, financial institutions and the general public. The Committee reviewed the IOLTA funding situation, which has shown a decrease during the recent difficult economic times, but not nearly to the extent experienced by the vast majority of the other 49 states which all have IOLTA programs. In accordance with the WV Supreme Court Order for the IOLTA program, the Committee recommended that $96,500 be distributed to the seven legal services entities that provide free civil legal assistance to low income West Virginians. The Bar Foundation Board of Directors approved the recommendation and the funds were dispersed.
INDEPENDENT COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL REFORM-
During September, the Independent Commission on Judicial Reform, initiated by Governor Manchin, held three public meetings in Huntington, Morgantown and Charleston to gather facts and information regarding several aspects of the State’s judicial system. The Commission consists of eight lawyers from all types of law practice and all parts of the West Virginia, as well as a national state courts expert with former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor serving as Honorary Chairperson. This is the first extensive review of the judicial system since the mid-1970’s when the Judicial Reorganization Act went into effect. The Commission has a deadline of November 15, 2009 to present its report and recommendations to Governor Manchin.