BUCKHANNON — The newest 26th Judicial Circuit judge was sworn in Tuesday morning.
Judge Kurt Hall won election to the Division 2 seat in the May primary. Judicial races are now non-partisan and elected in the May. However, those elected to
the office do not take their positions until Jan. 1 of the following year.
Hall was first appointed by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to fill the vacancy left by Judge Thomas Keadle, who retired. He then lost the election to Judge Jake Reger in 2014, but filed to seek the Division 2 seat when the Legislature designated a second judge for the 26th Judicial Circuit.
A study found that the circuit was the busiest in the state.
Hall said that being appointed to the position was an honor, but being elected to the position by the citizens was an honor of a different sort.
“It’s kind of hard to top being appointed, but [being elected] means more to me, because it means everyone had a say,” Hall said.
“I’m ready to serve,” he added. “It’s been a long 7 ½ months waiting to serve.”
Hall thanked all who supported him and recognized those in attendance.
Reger said that having two judges in the district will allow people to get in the courtroom sooner instead of scheduling around one judge.
“When one is in Upshur, the other can be in Lewis and vice versa,” he said.
Hall and Reger have already met to discuss the sharing of some duties.
Hall said, “Judge Reger has been fantastic. We have met several times. It’s going be a little difficult separating a docket out of Judge Reger’s docket, but we will work with it.”
Despite having faced each other in an election, Hall said he and Reger have a good working relationship.
“When we ran in the last election, we didn’t throw any punches at each other,” he joked. “We behaved like gentlemen, and it paid off.”
Hall said once the docket is separated out, both judges should have equal workloads in both counties.
Although the Lewis County Judicial Annex included office space for a second judge when it was constructed, finding space in the Upshur County Courthouse — built in 1899 — or its annex built in the 1990s has been difficult.
The plan is to move the family law courtroom and offices into the county commission administrative offices and then renovate the family law courtroom space for Hall and his staff. The county administrator and assistant county administrator are moving down West Main Street into a building the county already owns.
Hall is to meet with Upshur County maintenance director Greg Harris today to go over plans.
“I will give him an idea of what I would like to see, and they will try to make it happen,” Hall said. “They are on the ball over there.”
Senior Status Judge John Henning has spent a lot of time in the 26th Judicial Circuit since the retirement of Judge Thomas Keadle. Reger also thanked him for his service.
Henning said, “It has been a pleasure to work with you Judge Reger and with you, Judge Hall to a limited extent. The 26th judicial circuit is well served with two fine judges. There’s an affinity for this circuit since I have been over here so much, and as I leave it really makes me feel good to know that it is served by two fine judges.”