Four of the five candidates for West Virginia's Supreme Court believe it faces several serious threats to its integrity and reputation.
A declining number of opinions, allegedly unfair treatment of businesses and civility among the justices were among the issues cited at a Wednesday forum hosted by the state's bar association.
Two court seats are up this year. All five hopefuls attended, including Chief Justice Elliott "Spike'' Maynard.
The sole incumbent running, Maynard defended the level of discourse among the court's five justices and the quality and quantity of their opinions.
"I don't know any judge who misbehaved in the conference room,'' Maynard said. "I think the written product is as good as any court's in the land.''
Maynard has made national headlines following the release of photos showing him in Monaco with the chief executive of a coal company with cases pending before the court. He has since disqualified himself from at least three cases involving Massey Energy Co.
Fellow Democrat Menis Ketchum was asked about the court's method for handling recusal requests. A Huntington lawyer, Ketchum advocated an independent panel to resolve such issues.
While court rules require judicial officers to recuse themselves from "a proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned,'' it also gives that judge the final say.