Kanawha family court candidate no stranger to system

A candidate for Kanawha County’s family court judge vacancy believes her experience in the family court system -- including a protective order taken out against her by her then-husband several years ago -- will help her relate to people in family court if she’s chosen for the spot.

Erica Lord said she can relate to some of the defendants she’s prosecuted, as well as some of the victims of domestic violence she’s represented.

Lord, 37, who has worked as an assistant Kanawha prosecutor for five years, obtained a domestic violence protection order against her now ex-husband in March 2007. Two months later, he was granted a protective order against her.

Both orders were dismissed as part of their divorce, but Lord said the experience has helped her play a leading role in the county’s domestic violence pilot program and will continue to help her if Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin chooses her to replace recently retired Kanawha Family Court Judge Mike Kelly. She and two other attorneys, R. Joseph Zak and Darlene Ratliff Washington, have been recommended to the governor by the state Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission.

Lord has already filed preliminary paperwork to run for the position in 2016, when Kelly’s term will expire.

She and her then-husband, attorney Christopher Harich, obtained protection orders against each other while they were divorcing. Both orders were dismissed by then-Kanawha Family Court Judge Jane Charnock. Facts surrounding domestic violence orders are not public information.

Lord disclosed the information in her application for the family court appointment, and attached both dismissal orders.

“Being through this myself i think it has given me a better idea of what litigants go through,” Lord said. “Unfortunately, I was in an abusive situation and I know what it’s like to be in that system. I have moved on from that situation.”

Lord said she and Harich were married for 18 months. Harich did not return a phone message.

Also in 2007, Lord was charged with writing a worthless check for $633 to the Kanawha Sheriff’s Tax Department. She paid the amount in 2008 and the charge was dismissed.

Lord did not disclose that information on the application to be judge, and said she’d forgotten about it until a Gazette reporter asked her about it last week. She said her ex-husband had closed a bank account without her knowledge, and she wrote a check from that account to pay her property taxes.

The application also asks candidates to reveal any posts on social media that might depict them in a negative light. Lord wrote that in September 2013 a post on the website Topix depicted her in a false light. “As is the case with any public official, occasional stray comments have been posted on Topix about me,” Lord wrote on her application.

Lord actually sued the website in Kanawha Circuit Court last year. The lawsuit asked the website to reveal Internet service provider addresses of seven people who posted negative comments about her. The lawsuit was dropped when the comments were taken down.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com, 304-348-1723 or @KateLWhite on Twitter.

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