Essential reporting in volatile times.

Not a Subscriber yet? Click here to take advantage of All access digital limited time offer $13.95 per month EZ Pay.

Interested in Donating? Click #ISupportLocal for more information on supporting local journalism.

We hate attack ads. We especially hate attack ads that are sponsored by unaccountable, out-of-state political action committee money on behalf of electing a conservative candidate. A PAC is currently sponsoring such an ad against Richard Neely, who is running for the West Virginia Supreme Court in Division 1.

The attack ad would have you believe that Neely is against women and women’s rights. Whatever you think about events in 1985 depicted in the ad regarding an issue between then-Justice Neely and his secretary, Justice Neely’s decisions from the bench have been progressive and in favor of women’s rights.

Richard Neely served on the Supreme Court from 1973 until 1995. During that time, he wrote and/or supported several progressive issues of importance to us.

In 1993, Justice Neely voted for full access of women to Medicaid under an interpretation of the West Virginia Constitution that overturned a state law that would have prevented use of Medicaid funding for reproductive health.

For more than 25 years, Justice Neely’s decision helped thousands of low-income women exercise their constitutional right to abortion. Neely’s opponent, Chief Justice Tim Armstead, on the contrary, voted in favor of a referendum to amend the state constitution to prohibit Medicaid funding for abortion.

In 1984, Justice Neely authored the Primary Caretaker Parent Standard for Child Custody in Divorce. This standard, which ultimately became the practice in many other states, does not favor either the man or the woman in a child custody case. Rather, it looks at who is the primary caretaker for the children and bases custody decisions on that standard. Advocates for children have universally hailed this decision as in the child’s best interest.

In 1983, in the case of LaRue v. LaRue, Justice Neely concurred with the Supreme Court that, in divorce, property should be equitably distributed between husband and wife. He further wrote that, in the presence of minor children, the primary caretaker, most often the wife, should retain the marital home. Prior to this opinion, marital assets were often divided based on who brought the most money into the marriage (usually the husband) and considered women’s traditional work as a homemaker of no monetary value. Justice Neely affirmed that women’s traditional work in the home has as much value as that earned in a job.

In 1980, Justice Neely wrote an opinion to reform the mental health system in West Virginia. This opinion modernized the West Virginia mental health system. It mandated improved standards of care and set the basis for taking mentally ill and developmentally disabled people, who could live in the community with adequate support, out of state mental hospitals. Most of these facilities were hell holes, and Justice Neely’s opinion helped begin a process of reform.

If there is a women’s rights case or a case on the rights of poor and disabled people before the high court, we would rather have Justice Neely consider the arguments than any other candidate in Division 1.

Renate Pore is the president of the Kanawha Valley National Organization for Women; Betty Justice is a past president of West Virginia NOW; and Barbara Ellen Smith

is a feminist scholar and retired professor

of race and gender studies.