Jim Douglas Article
Welcome to this May 15 edition of the Richard Urban Show. I’m your host Richard Urban. Today, we’re very happy to have on a candidate for the Supreme Court of Appeals in West Virginia, Jim Douglas, and we’ll ask you to just introduce yourself and maybe say anything you want about yourself or your family.
“My name is Jim Douglas. I’m currently family court judge in Kanawha County. Before I became judge for 39 and a half years ago, I was a divorce lawyer and had one little stint as a prosecuting attorney I am a native West Virginian”
“I’m 69 years old, so I guess that qualifies me as older than dirt or at least dust okay, and there’s at least two other people running in these Supreme Court races, older than I am, so I take some gratification to that. I have three kids and six grandchildren,” Douglas said.
“I am divorced. You don’t see too many people running for office that say that, but I am divorced. So, as far as family law matters, I’ve lived them. I’ve sat where a lot of people that I sit in judgment on every day have been so I can identify with those problems. I have served two terms on the West Virginia State Bar of Governors. I have served two terms as chair of the family law committee of the West Virginia State Ba. I have argued over 40 cases to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, mostly divorce and family law cases. I’ve also tried family law cases and other cases in 44 of the state’s 55 counties” Douglas continued.
Richard: You have given a lot of experience that you’ve had in family court and other types of courts. What would you say are the three main reasons you’re running for Supreme Court of Appeals?
“The main reason I can say that I’m running right now. If I were to ask you, Richard, and your listeners, or the people following on video, for you to imagine in your circle of acquaintances, and your friends and family – don’t answer the question just form the answer in your mind. How many people do you know that’s had an association with a felony in your recent years? Okay, you going to have a number, maybe come to your mind. Most statistics show though, that if you have some encounter with the law any time in your life, if you leave out vehicular offences like speeding and that type of thing, it’s going to be a family law case…. So my point is family law, family law situations touch everyone…. and that’s part of the reason I’m running, I am the only candidate that has substantial family law experience. I’m talking about substantial. I’m talking about including my term as a family court judge, over 43 years. Right now on the Supreme Court of Appeals…there are three justices on that Supreme Court right now that have never picked a jury, never cross examined a witness, never presented an indictment, never ran a law office as a principal, never even argued a case as first chair in front of the Supreme Court they now sit on.” Douglas responds.
Richard: So thanks for sharing your experience, which is important. So you’ve been doing family law, and do you support the idea of community marriage policies? Have you heard about that? Where in certain cities and jurisdictions, primarily cities, I believe, they would make a policy among the clergy that to get married, you have to have some counseling or some kind of a course. Do you think that’s a good idea, a bad idea? Why or why not?
Well, now I’ve got to make clear, the cannon of judicial ethics say, I can’t comment on a case that may come in front of me… but I can comment on issues if there’s not a current case in front of the West Virginia Supreme Court.
Richard: I was not talking about a case so much, just about the idea of community marriage policies.
Here’s my feeling on it. I’m going to be upfront with you about it, is, if you will, look in my history in 2005, I took a case to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, and it was the first case involving same sex custody. In other words, it was a lesbian custody case, which I won against the biological grandfather. It’s called Clifford K versus Smarr.
It was 2005.Nobody would take that case but me, I took it up lost it at the Circuit Court level, won it at the Supreme Court level.
Now, nobody thinks about those things. And here’s my position. I’ve got a step son, I guess, because I mean I’m not married, but my partner has a son that is openly gay and I went to his wedding. I perform regularly, I’m the only family court judge that regularly performs gay weddings in Kanawha County, state of West Virginia.
My feeling is you shouldn’t have to be imposed, I am answering your question now, you shouldn’t have to impose additional obligations upon anyone that wants to enter into a non-tradition or gay marriage. The Obergefell decision and the Windsor decision, that both came out of the United States Supreme Court says we don’t treat anybody differently.
I can remember when I got married, the first, when I got married in 1976, nobody made me go to any kind of counseling or anything. We just showed up, took the blood test went to the preacher and got it done.
I don’t think you should impose that on any group. Any particular group.”
Richard: I see what you are saying. So it’s not a legal Covenant, it’s among churches. So I was looking at their website, marriagesavers.com. So I think it is, the churches agree. So if you choose to be married elsewhere, it has no effect. I agree with you, it can’t be like legal ‘Hey, you want to get married, you must take this course. No, but I think what it is, is that the churches in particular communities. One, I think that’s been pretty successful is in Kansas City, Kansas. They make some agreement, so presumably a same-sex couple, just wouldn’t go to any of those churches they would just go to a Justice of the Peace and do whatever they want, so I don’t think it would really affect that. You know what I’m saying?
Jim Douglas: Right, well let me come back, then I see more clearly your question now. Right now, I’m a member the Christ Church United Methodist in Charleston, and of course we have openly gay members and even teachers. The issue that’s confronting us right now is
one, can there be gay clergy?
And, two, Can there be gay weddings within the church itself? And there’s been quite a bit of fracturing even among three different views in the Methodist charge, and in our church, it’s been divisive. It hasn’t been decided and I think, you know I am Christian by religion, and I believe whenever Christ said, ‘Come unto me all’ that whomsoever comes, that then they come. The churches shouldn’t impose that on anyone. If you want to be a member when Christ said whomsoever, he didn’t have an asterisk above the R and something in the footnotes.
Richard: Well, that’s clear, a clear answer, I appreciate that.
Richard: To try to change a topic a little. What would be your view of the 2018 impeachment of the West Virginia Supreme Court? Do you think that the legislature overreached, or was it appropriate or just what’s your view on what was going on there? And since then?
“Well, no, we’ve had some fall out from there. I mean, of course the impeachments are over, but I think two things came out of this that are still with us. One is there has been a dilution of the separation of powers, by the case that was called Workman versus Carmichael, that’s where the impeachment proceedings against Justice Workman began. She filed suit, recused herself, so all the other justices, well, they weren’t sitting or they were recused, and she appointed five judges and they said, all right legislature, you can’t be doing this because of certain procedures,” Douglas said.
“Now, it’s going to be strange to hear somebody in the judicial section say what I’m going to say. It would sound like I’m actually in the legislature. But I think that the case that was overruled, to get to that point to stop the proceedings against Workmen were ill-advised, I think the legislature can’t be interfered with in their lawful execution of their constitutional duties. In fact the 10 years before that workman case in 2008, I think it is10 years, there was what was called the Clodges(spelling?) case, where there was an attempt made to make the legislature, it had to do with an expungement of a gentleman on a drug charge, and the expungement of his record, to have an expungement appear in the official record of the Senate and the house, and the Supreme Court said at that time in 2008,we can’t interfere with the legislature, if they want to do that, they want to do it. So the Workman case comes along and reverses that, and I think there’s been, as I said, a diminution of the separation of powers with regard to the legislature,” Douglas continued.
“I don’t think the legislature should’ve been limited on that. Now to hear a judge say that that’s trying to get on the Supreme Court is probably atypical, I would say. The second thing that’s left out, that’s left on the impeachment process… In my mind the worst offense, to me was – and I’m speaking out, I know I might end up on the court with her – but that was Justice Walker outsourcing her opinions to be written outside of the Supreme Court, and paid for it. I like to think my experience, by George, I’ll write my own opinions”, Douglas added.
Richard: With the current whole COVID-19 thing, it seems like, throughout the nation, a lot of governors have put different restrictions in place, including Gov. Justice, and it seems like there’s a lot of constitutional issues about it. You were talking about separation of powers. The Governor said, you’ll stay home, don’t meet more than 25, don’t meet more than 5. He makes up what I see as relatively random thinks like ‘Oh, there’s more than 20 cases; you are a Hot Spot. Oh, oops, we forgot to consider population, no you’re not a Hot Spot. I’m saying it seems like these issues are ripe for review in the courts, or whatever, or by the legislature, it seems almost really excessive. Do you have any thoughts on that kind of thing?
“Yeah, I sure do. First of all, of all that litany of things that you mentioned, there’s one thing that you didn’t include and was one that affected me the most, is moving the election from May 12 to June 9. That is in the statute and nobody really approved that. Nobody really contested that. I mean as a lawyer. That came to my mind, man, maybe I should file something. Then I got to thinking. Well, somebody will make play on that that I don’t care whether or not poll workers are infected, but I agree with what you’re saying there on that particular issue,” Douglas said.
Richard: So are there no jury trials right now? They’re suspended until whenever?
“I think it’s July 7, might be off on that day. It’s in July. I know that and then grand juries are held off until about June 27. That day I think is correct…. And of course you know in family law we don’t have juries and ours is confidential, but you know, we have a lot of witnesses that usually show up in custody matters and we have to deal with that. In my court room it would be hard to have two attorneys, two parties, a bailiff…” (There was a break in the connection) Douglas explained.
Richard: In West Virginia I’m concerned about the constitutional issues of the legislature, and sometimes they’re administrative rulings dealing with vaccine mandates, and things like that. It seems that could violate, or does constitutional rights – first, or fourth amendment. I don’t know if you are free to say anything about it or have any opinion, generally?
“Well, I don’t know. I don’t want to get in trouble, but let me just give you a pretty good hint. My mother was a school teacher, my partner’s a school teacher, I had three kids and the health of those kids meant everything to me, and I think also the health of kids that they go to school with are important too. So I think you can probably see where I’m going with this. I will say this, I will say this, I don’t think it’s a Fourth Amendment issue,” Douglas said.
Richard: I know you’re running against three other candidates in Division 2. How would you differentiate yourself from the other candidates? Would you care to share anything about that?
“Sure, first of all, as I said, earlier, I’m the only one of the candidates that has substantial family law experience. I am the only one of the candidates in that division that has had, and is currently a family court judge experience. I am the family court judge, and that’s what we need on the Supreme Court. That’s the first differentiation. And then my experience in practice of law has been more on the boots on the ground practical experience,” Doulas responded.
“And then the last thing that differentiates me, I’ve not sought any endorsements from anybody, anybody. I have filled out their questionnaires, I’ve done at least one interview. But my position is, on those endorsements, if somebody starts saying all those endorsements, is, you have to wonder as an average voter, what did they cost? How are they going to be paid for in the future? Don’t you think these special interests don’t expect payment?” Douglas stated.
Richard: I appreciate you coming on and I hope people will watch the interview, and other candidates’ interviews and be able to be well-informed. So I do really thank you. Did you want to say anything else in closing about your candidacy?
“Well, first of all, I thank you for being interested enough to contact me. What I want do to the Supreme Court is bring practical experience, I wat to renew an allegiance to the predictability function of law. In other words, you follow precedence. I think I want to bring to the Supreme Court too, an effort to lessen the spatial and geographical distance,” Douglas concluded.