Welcome to this edition of the Richard Urban show. I’m your host Richard Urban, coming to you from historic Harpers Ferry, WV, and today, May 27th, we’re having Bill Schwartz on. He’s running for the Supreme Court of Appeals in Division 3. Please introduce yourself.
”Thank you Richard. Thanks for having me on. I’m Bill Schwartz and I’m a lawyer here in Charleston, WV. I’m a candidate for division 3 of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, Division 3. And it’s interesting that you’re in Harpers Ferry. I think it’s a beautiful area. I biked there years ago when I was on the C & O towpath with my older boy. And we actually camped outside of Harpers Ferry; beautiful area,” Schwartz said.
“I’m a graduate of both St. John’s University in New York, I’m originally from Queens, NY, and I was born and raised there and while I was at St. John’s, I wasn’t just a graduate at St. John’s, I was a two-time Big East Medalist in track and field. I was also student athlete of the year 1982 when I graduated, and I took that money from the award to help me go to law school where I went to Washington and Lee University School of Law,” Schwartz added.
“After graduating, I wanted to be a trial lawyer. I wanted to try cases and that’s exactly what I did. I’ve never run for office before in my life and I’ll get to that in a second, but I wanted to be a trial lawyer and I’ve spent 32 years of my career representing injured workers and families. I’ve done, what some people call toxic torts. That could be anything from poisoned water to men breathing poisons on the job. I have represented a number of men who have worked with their hands throughout their career. I don’t think you would call them liberal men by any means. Except for the fact that they care about worker’s rights. They fought our wars. Their dads, their sons fought our wars. They’ve raised families. I decided to get into this to be a representative of them. Again, taxpayers, I want to get taxpayers among the robes. I’m not a judge, I’m not politician. And I think we’ve seen enough of that. And so I want to be a taxpayer among the robes,” Schwartz continued.
Richard: I know from talking to some of the other candidates that a lot of the cases coming up to the Supreme Court are family law cases, and you’re a personal injury attorney. Is that something you want to address?
“The question is regarding children, family law, and I think what you mean is the fallout from the opioid crisis. Right now, there are 7000 children in state custody. I think that’s tragic. I have raised a family and my children have been very fortunate. I was a track and field student athlete. My son just completed a great career at Marshall University. I have another son who is probably better than both of us,” Schwartz said.
“They’ve lived very privileged lives because of my career. And frankly, their mother; they’ve had great lives. Many children in West Virginia don’t enjoy that. And I’m aware of that. Just because my children have lived a privileged life, doesn’t mean I’m ignoring the plight of 7000 children who are now in state custody,” Schwartz continued.
“I think it’s a tragedy, and I think it’s a tragedy that our court has to focus on. I think there has to be a priority given to the front line. If you think of the virus that we’re dealing with right now, you think of the nurses and healthcare workers at the front line. Well, think about the opioid crisis. And the children who go home to mothers you don’t wake up, or fathers who are absent.” Schwartz added.
Richard: Our non-profit, and this is more like a philosophical question, but we deal with the issue of staying abstinent before marriage. We have different school materials that we’ve taught over the years. We emphasize wait to have sex. Have a stable family. What do you think about that kind of approach? Do you think that’s viable, a good approach for school-age children?
“I think you can preach and I’m all for preaching. And I think it starts with the examples that you set. And I go back to my own children’s situation. They have, I think, a pretty good example in both me and their mother. Some people don’t have those examples of how to live. And we we’re taught in our environment, you always go back to that situation. Is your destiny set by your environment or is it predestined for you? And I think, frankly, environment has something to do with it,” Schwartz responded.
Richard: With the proceedings against the Supreme Court in 2018, do you feel that the legislature overreached? I’ll mention this, I actually read through the indictment against the justice who was actually indicted. But I have to say, now I don’t believe you should lie or file false reports. But I do have to say, I did take the time because I kept seeing in the article, the criminal federal indictment. I said ‘What did they indict the guy for?’ They indicted him, on some of the indictments, he filed $30 in false claims for mileage. I said Okay that’s wrong, but I mean they seem to have made this huge deal out of it. What’s your opinion about the whole thing?
“And my feeling is, my limited involvement. Again, I was married to a federal prosecutor. So one thing I know is never lie to the feds. If they’re investigating, say Martha Stewart for example. She did a simple trade that was considered insider trading and what they got her on was lying to the feds,” Schwartz responded.
Richard: I noticed on one of your interviews, concerning West Virginia Supreme Court elections, you were saying you are non-affiliated which means you’re not registered Democrat or Republican, and the other judges should be too. So that means they shouldn’t have a party affiliation? Do you want to speak anything about that?
“Absolutely. I’m glad you brought that up. It’s important. I am politically unaffiliated meaning, I’m not Democrat. I’m not Republican, I’m not independent. I did that for a reason. I think everyone out there should realize, first of all, the legislature later changed the law in West Virginia, several years ago, they made what used to be partisan races for judicial races – they made it non-partisan by law. It is illegal for me to tell you that I am part of a particular party,” Schwartz said.
Richard: With all the things surrounding COVID-19, there’s so many restrictions, regulations. It’s affected a lot of things in many states, not just West Virginia. Do you have any comment about it?
“I think I’m free enough to say this. I’m affected by it. I’m one of the people. As a lawyer I ran a small business. I could see how a small business gets upset. It is a balance. And I don’t agree the governor on many things. I’m not running for policy-making decisions, I’m not running for the legislature and I’m not running for governor, I’m running for the Supreme Court, which is based on law and facts,” Schwartz said.
Richard: Would you describe yourself as more like a strict constructionist as to the constitution or some other term? Would you care to comment anything about that kind of thing?
”I appreciate that question, too. And I get that all the time, and I kind of think it’s a misnomer. When you say “strict constructionist’ person, the Constitution says what the constitution says. The judges and justices are all human beings and we all interpret language. We may both look at the black letter or something and disagree as to what that black letter says. But here’s my opinion. The job of a justice is not to legislate. The job of a justice is to apply the law,” Schwartz said.
Richard: Okay, alright, so I know you have a couple of opponents in this race, how would you differentiate yourself for the voters from your opponents in this race?
“I think it’s easy, if you like, if you like everything as it is, if you think it’s fun, if you think politicians, and judges, and justices have done a great job for the last two decades or three decades in West Virginia, you got some good choices besides me. I’m not saying they’re bad people. I’m just saying they are more of the same,” Schwartz said.
“We’ve got a sitting Supreme Court Justice who was appointed by the governor who spent 23 years as a judge, and we’ve got another judge, we’ve got people who pick, in the judiciary, as a legal career, wanting to step up and be on our highest court. And what I’m saying is, ‘we already got enough of that. And we’ve had enough of that. For the last 20, 30, 40 years. Our Supreme Court right now is made up of plenty of people like that; politicians or career judges. And we have learned, I’m not speaking to the current Supreme Court at all, that maybe, maybe being a politician your entire career and being on the tax payer dime, and being a judge your entire career. Wearing the robes and having everybody call you your honor. Not having to worry about making a payroll or paying your taxes, but living on our tax dollar, may cause you to lose perspective. Clearly it caused two of the justices to lose perspective. They were charged with federal crimes. So they lost perspective. I bring a different perspective. I want to be a tax payer, because that’s what I’ve been doing every quarter for the last 32, 33 years of my career now, raising a family in West Virginia. I want to bring a tax payer’s perspective to the Supreme Court. …
If the voters want more of the same. I’m not your guy. If you want more of the same, I’m not your guy. There are other choices, besides me, but I’m giving you an alternative,” Schwartz added.
Richard: Well, to conclude, would you share like to share anything else with the voters as they consider the different candidates for the June 9th election, which will elect our Supreme Court Justices.
“Yes, and that’s a good point you bring up. June 9th is not a primary. It is the final vote. You are selecting the justices for your Supreme Court. And I think there are 28 years at issue here, on our Supreme Court, it’s the most powerful court in the State of West Virginia. And I think you gave to think hard about that. I believe that the voters should consider a change. I want to be an agent of change. I believe I’m an agent of change. If you want more of the same, I’m not your guy,” Schwartz concluded.