New year, new chief justice: West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals plans for 2021

Politics

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — As 2020 comes to a close, many are looking forward to the new year with hope. This theme runs all the way up, to the highest echelons of government in the Mountain State.

A new year means a new court: on January 1st, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals will have a new chief justice—Justice Evan Jenkins.

“Each year, the justices select one of the five members of the court to serve as the chief justice for the coming year, and the justices gave me the honor to serve in 2021.”

Justice Evan Jenkins, incoming chief justice, West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

Jenkins has served on the West Virginia Supreme Court since 2018, after two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives for West Virginia’s Third Congressional District.

He has high hopes for his year in this new role—chief among them, adapting new technology to better serve the judicial system.

“We have made a significant investment during 2020 in COVID, and that investment actually can work to a more efficient judicial system. We don’t want to lose the kind of investment that we’ve made this past year when we get in a post-COVID environment.”

Justice Evan Jenkins, incoming chief justice, West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals
Justice Evan Jenkins (left) says 2021 will be an opportunity to adapt new technology to better serve the judicial system. (Photo Courtesy: 13 News Reporter Natalie Wadas)

“The vision is a post-COVID; a new normal; an opportunity to make sure that the investment that we’ve made this past year continues moving forward; and a judicial system that fulfills our commitment as justices on the court to be accountable and transparent to the people of West Virginia.”

Justice Evan Jenkins, incoming chief justice, West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

Despite being a Huntington native, he says his local background is separate from his duties as chief justice.

“There’s a very different role in my capacity on the Supreme Court than in the traditional days when I served in the legislative branch…but it’s still service. And what’s important to me today is about making sure that we uphold the constitution.” 

Justice Evan Jenkins, incoming chief justice, West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

After performing swearing-in ceremonies for several local positions in Huntington Tuesday, local officials say they consider it an honor to have 2021’s chief justice be from Cabell County.

“He has done so many wonderful things, to wind up as the chief justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court is really an honor, and it’s such an honor for the people of Cabell County to know that we have that person in that position.”

Nancy Cartmill, Cabell County Commission
Justice Evan Jenkins performed swearing-in ceremonies for both Nancy Cartmill of the Cabell County Commission and Chuck Zerkle, the Cabell County Sheriff. (Photo Courtesy: 13 News Reporter Natalie Wadas)

“He’s always been a great supporter of Cabell County, he’s been a great supporter of law enforcement and everything that we do. It’s just gonna be great to have someone that we know that we can reach out to in these times.” 

Chuck Zerkle, Cabell County Sheriff

“We’re gonna keep on this track of making sure that we restore the public’s trust in their highest court.” 

Justice Evan Jenkins, incoming chief justice, West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals reconvenes on January 12th to hear cases, at which time Jenkins will take the bench as chief justice.

The cases are live-streamed, and can be found here.

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