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The West Virginia Intermediate Court of Appeals is one step closer to jumping from the pages of state law and into physical existence.

The Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission submitted the names of eight people for Gov. Jim Justice to consider for the intermediate court, set to open July 1, 2022.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Evan Jenkins said in a news release that the high court and administrative staff look forward to working with whomever the governor appoints.

The Supreme Court’s release contained the names of the potential appointees that were submitted to the Governor’s Office.

Twenty-five people applied for the three positions during the fall. Members of the commission were responsible for reviewing the applications, conducting interviews and sharing their recommendation with the governor.

When established, the intermediate court will include three judges who will be responsible for hearing appeals in certain cases from circuit and family courts.

The commission submitted three names per judge position. The positions are sorted by how long the original appointed term will last. One term is 2½ years, another is 4½ years, and the third is 6½ years.

The commission recommended one person, House of Delegates chief-of-staff Dan Greear, for both the 2½- and the 4½-year terms.

Justice appointed Greear to a Kanawha Circuit Court judge position in 2018, after the late James Stucky’s retirement. Greear sought election to finish the rest of that term, but he lost to Judge Tera Salango.

Here are the recommendations the commission gave to the governor:

  • 2½-year term: Greear, of South Charleston; Senior Status Judge James Rowe, who retired from Greenbrier Circuit Court in 2016; and Thomas Scarr, a lawyer with Jenkins Fenstermaker in Huntington, a firm founded by Jenkins’ grandfather.
  • 4½-year term: Robert J. Frank, a Lewisburg attorney; Greear; and Mineral Family Court Judge Deana Ray Rock.
  • 6½-year term: Donald Nickerson Jr., an attorney in the Wheeling office of Spilman Thomas and Battle; Debra Scudiere, a mediator, arbitrator and West Virginia University College of Law adjunct professor whom Justice appointed to temporarily fill a Monongalia circuit judge position in 2019; and Putnam County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Sorsaia.

The commission’s work is the appointment process is now tentatively over.

If the governor doesn’t pick from the commission’s initial recommendations, the panel must reconvene and provide him with a new list. Once the governor appoints the judges, they may be sworn in as early as May 1, as per a law the Legislature passed in October.

To qualify to serve on the intermediate court, a candidate must be a state resident and a member of the West Virginia State Bar. They also are required to have been admitted to the State Bar for 10 years, and have a minimum five years experience in “preparing and presenting cases or hearing actions and making decisions on the basis of record” in federal, state or local courts, or other administrative agencies or regulatory bodies, according to the the law.

Each judge will serve 10-year terms and be paid $142,500 annually. Following Justice’s initial appointments, elections for subsequent judges will be staggered in 2024, 2026 and 2028.

Intermediate court judges are subject to the same nonpartisan elections that take place during the primary election when a judicial term expires. The intermediate judges also are subject to existing ethical policies for judges, including not practicing law or holding any other public office.

The Supreme Court is responsible for providing administrative services for the intermediate court.

Lacie Pierson covers politics. She may be reached at 304-348-1723 or lacie.pierson Follow @laciepierson on Twitter.

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