Gov. Jim Justice appointed two new circuit court judges on Wednesday, one of which is the spouse of one of his closest advisors.
Stephanie Abraham, who is married to Justice’s chief of staff, will serve the 13th Judicial Circuit Court, in Kanawha County, and Michael Asbury will take on the 14th Judicial Circuit Court, serving Braxton, Clay, Gilmer and Webster counties.
During his Wednesday briefing, Justice said the two appointments are his latest attempts to correct the state from being “a judicial hell hole.”
“The one thing I’ve tried to do and I’ve tried to do it as fairly as I possibly could, but without any question in years passed, West Virginia has been a judicial hell hole,” Justice said. “I hate to say it, but it’s been exactly that.”
Abraham will take the seat previously held by Judge Duke Bloom, who retired from the bench on June 30. She most previously worked as general counsel for the West Virginia Board of Education.
Justice said that Abraham’s “career speaks for itself,” no matter who her husband is.
“For anyone who knows Stephanie Abraham, whether she’s the wife of my chief of staff or whomever it may be, we are not going to penalize a great candidate and someone who is as qualified as she is just because she’s a hard worker and the wife of my chief of staff,” Justice said.
Abraham was selected from a list of 12 finalists, which included Charleston City Attorney Kevin Baker, former longtime Municipal Judge Anne Charnock, Kanawha Family Court Judges Jim Douglas and Brittany Ranson Stonestreet, Kanawha County Assistant Prosecutor Adam Petry, and Kanawha County Deputy Chief Public Defender Zoe Shavers, among others.
Asbury will take the position formerly held by Judge Richard Facemire, who also retired on June 30. Asbury, a West Virginia State University graduate, owns a law practice in Clay County, according to a news release from the Governor’s Office.
Justice praised Abraham for being a “true Christian” and noted Asbury’s involvement with his church. He said both were “rocksolid people with conservative values” who will help with what he sees as West Virginia’s judicial challenges.
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