By Ron Gregory
WILLIAMSON — The election of a new Mingo County Family Court judge moved a step further toward reality Tuesday.
Mingo County Clerk “Big Jim” Hatfield said he received certification from Secretary of State Natalie Tennant for national, state and district candidates. Those candidates who were required by law to file in Tennant’s office must be certified by the secretary no later than Monday. Hatfield and Tennant spokesman Jake Glance said she met that deadline.
With the information from Tennant, Hatfield said his staff completed work on the Nov. 4 ballot and forwarded the names to Casto & Harris, a Spencer election-printing specialist. The clerk said he expects the company to send him a proof of the ballot “within a few days.”
Hatfield confirmed that “I provided the list of county candidates and Duke Jewell is on there for Family Court judge.”
There has been some controversy involving that position since Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin appointed former Family Court Judge Miki Thompson as Mingo Circuit judge. The timing of Tomblin’s appointment is at issue, since the appointment of Thompson came more than 84 days before the general election.
Hatfield maintains that the state Code requires an election to fill the unexpired term if it is within 84 days of the election. Some staffers for Tomblin and Tennant have argued that the governor appoints someone to fill the unexpired term, which ends at the conclusion of 2016.
All agree that Tomblin can make an interim appointment, based on recommendations he receives from the Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission. But Hatfield says that appointment will only be good through certification of the Nov. 4 balloting.
Hatfield’s personal attorney said Tuesday, “We believe the argument can be made that an election by the people is called for. Big Jim believes in allowing the voters to decide. We feel that the secretary of state has a responsibility to certify state and national candidates but it is the clerk’s job to certify county candidates. Big Jim has certified Jewell.”
Jewell also is a candidate for Tomblin’s appointment and some have argued that his appointment by the governor would make the election moot.
“We see that point of view,” Hatfield said, “but I still believe in the peoples’ right to choose their own officers. If the governor appoints him and he’s elected in November, there will be no argument from anybody.”