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Judiciary honors Justice Thomas McHugh

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Photo by Andrea Lannom. McHugh thanks friends for attending the ceremony. Photo by Andrea Lannom. McHugh thanks friends for attending the ceremony.
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Members of the West Virginia judiciary expressed their heartfelt appreciation in a Dec. 20 ceremony for a West Virginia Supreme Court justice who will leave his seat on the bench at the end of this month.

Officials unveiled a portrait of Justice Thomas McHugh, a 20-year veteran on the state's highest court. McHugh, who originally came to Kanawha County Circuit Court as a circuit judge 38 years ago, reflected on his years of service and the people he came to know.

"Meeting the people both at the circuit court level and the Supreme Court has to be my favorite part," McHugh said. "It's very heartwarming that people around me are doing this."

McHugh was elected to the state's highest court in 1980 and then reelected in 1992 and again in 2010.

Steve Canterbury, court administrator, said the court was questioned about the need for the portrait and how much it cost.

"The media questioned why we wanted to capture a moment in history," he said. "If you don't record it, you lose it."

Canterbury also recalled a "wonderful and terrible" memory of when McHugh first sat on the bench.

"He said he did not want to take a penny more in salary than any of the other justices," Canterbury said noting it was a wonderful gesture but terrible because no one had ever asked to do that before.

Canterbury said the only way to do that was if McHugh gave back money every month to the state treasurer. He ended up giving approximately $325,000, Canterbury said.

"That's what he has given back," Canterbury said.

Fourth Circuit Judge Robert King said he was delighted to be at the ceremony on behalf of the federal judiciary, calling it a "grand and glorious occasion." King remembered his years practicing law with McHugh.

"Tom McHugh lived an exemplary personal and professional life. …To borrow a phrase, Justice Tom McHugh is the best of West Virginia," he said.

Chief Justice Menis Ketchum also recalled memories with his fellow justice but also joked, "I've seen your painting. You're not that good looking." 

"I believe Tom will go down as one of the best jurists in the history of West Virginia," Ketchum said. "When I came to this court, it was fractured. They always fought. Through his leadership that court calmed down and actually talked to each other again. He has been a leader of our court and it has become a court people respect again."