The West Virginia Supreme Court is a mess right now.
The state’s residents deserve a fair, honest, experienced judge to fill the seats left open earlier this year. Voters should fill one of those seats with William Stewart Thompson, currently a circuit judge in Boone and Lincoln counties.
As a judge in Southern West Virginia for the past decade, Thompson’s courtroom has been dominated by the opioid crisis and its effects.
He’s been a driving force for the county’s drug court program, and emphasized the need to give addicts every chance to turn their lives around. He’s also advocated for a family drug court program, but the current Supreme Court hasn’t allocated the money for such a program.
Thompson has also shown he’ll do what’s right for West Virginians in the face of arguments from high-powered, out-of-state corporate lawyers. He’s the judge who refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the state against the megalithic drug companies who flooded West Virginia with a staggering number of prescription painkillers, fueling the opioid crisis that continues to ravage the state and the country. Thompson later agreed with this newspaper’s request to release numbers on exactly how many pills had been shipped, bringing the crisis into focus.
In a meeting with Gazette-Mail editors, Thompson showed his anger at the current Supreme Court justices and their profligate spending.
“At the same time the story is breaking about the couch and things of that nature, I’m getting letters and emails from the court that I need to lay off probation officers, and that really made me angry,” he said. “The fact we can go out and buy $32,000 couches, but are laying off staff people that can actually save people’s lives.”
Thompson has deep roots in his community. A graduate of Scott High School and West Virginia University (where he got an engineering degree before going to law school), he helped run businesses in Madison and Danville. As a lawyer in Madison, his experience included arguing cases on appeal — the kinds of cases that form the majority of the Supreme Court’s docket. He was named a circuit judge in 2007, and he’s been on the bench ever since. That’s the kind of experience and grounded good sense the Supreme Court could desperately use.
There are some other candidates in the Supreme Court Division 2 race who would be fine choices, including Kanawha Family Court Judge Jim Douglas, Charleston lawyer Dennise Renee Smith and former state Senate leader Jeff Kessler.
But Thompson is the clear choice. We urge voters to make it.