Ashton Marra Published

Afer 32 Years of Service, McGraw Wants 12 More on High Court


Of all five of the candidates running for Supreme Court, only two have judicial experience. Current Justice Brent Benjamin is hoping to be re-elected to his seat, and Darrell McGraw, a member of the high court from 1976 to 1988, is trying to take it from him.

“My life has been a life dedicated to service,” McGraw said. “My calling to service is through the law and this is an opportunity for me to continue to serve the community that [and] to improve the quality of life for all of the people of West Virginia.”

His one 12-year term on the court was followed shortly after by the tenure he is most known for. McGraw spent two decades as West Virginias Attorney General- a post he lost to current Attorney General Patrick Morrisey during the 2012 election.

During his time as Attorney General, McGraw said there is one area of accomplishments he is most proud of, his work building the office’s Consumer Protection Division.

“Over a period of 20 years, we were able to return to the state and individual people in the state $2 billion,” he said.

Attorney General Morrisey regularly announces settlements with major companies for consumer protection lawsuits and those settlements typically bring millions of dollars back to the state’s coffers.

As recently as last week, Morrisey announced an $8 million settlement with a subsidiary of the financial firm Wells Fargo—a case that, like many others, was filed during the McGraw administration.

“I haven’t heard of any case from the Attorney General’s Office that was not initiated by my tenure in office and I haven’t heard of any program that is being prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office that was not already highly developed,” McGraw said.

But it’s a brief filed during his time as Attorney General that is having an impact on the way McGraw is running his campaign today.

In 2012, McGraw intervened in a case challenging current Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry’s use of the state’s public campaign financing program. The program is only available to Supreme Court candidates who have to meet a number of qualifying requirements before receiving half a million dollars in taxpayer money to pay for their race.

Supporters say public financing keeps politics out of the court system and prevents people from buying off judges to win cases.

In his brief, McGraw called the program unconstitutional. Although after the 2012 election lawmakers made some changes to the program, McGraw still turned down the opportunity to participate in the 2016 race.

“If I had availed myself of that system, I would have certainly been branded right away a hypocrite,” McGraw said.

But in addition to the attacks that could have come from his fellow candidates, McGraw said he also strongly believes there are better uses for taxpayer dollars in such trying financial times.

McGraw was also uncertain about another new factor in this year’s race—the change to nonpartisan elections of judges.

“I think that the notion of nonpartisanship in an election, which is a good theoretical notion, actually deprives people of words that define philosophies,” he said.


Credit McGraw Campaign
Darrell McGraw in a campaign photo.

“Association with a group of people who express a particular point of view is a good thing and it gives people voice so to that degree it probably deprives people of definition when they go in to vote for a particular candidate.”

Still, when asked to describe his own personal philosophy, McGraw called himself a progressive whose views are shaped by his religious upbringing in southern West Virginia.

“My future performance as a Justice on the West Virginia Supreme Court is to a considerable degree predictable by my past record,” McGaw said, “and I strive to maintain my faith with the voters and to serve the people of West Virginia as my calling in the law.”

Early voting is currently taking place in county courthouses across the state. May 10 is Primary Day and the only time West Virginians can cast ballots in judicial elections at all levels.