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Justice Workman keynotes at SU

By Staff | May 14, 2010

Justice Workman

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Justice Margaret L. Workman will be this year’s speaker at Shepherd University’s 137th Commencement on Saturday, May 15. Workman also will be awarded an honorary doctorate.

Justice Workman became the first woman elected to the court in 1988 and the first woman elected to a statewide office. A native West Virginian, Workman received her law degree in 1974 from the West Virginia University College of Law. Her father was a coal miner whose ancestors were among the first settlers of Boone County. Justice Workman attended Kanawha County public schools and was the first in her family to go to college.

After receiving her law degree, she served as assistant majority counsel to the U.S. Senate Public Works Committee, chaired by Senator Jennings Randolph of West Virginia. She returned to West Virginia to work as a law clerk to the 13th Judicial Circuit. In 1976 she served as an advance person in the Carter Presidential Campaign and later worked on the campaign staff of U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller.

In 1981, Workman became the youngest circuit court judge in the state when then Governor Rockefeller appointed her to the Kanawha County Circuit Court; she ran successfully for the unexpired term in 1982 and the full term in 1984. As a circuit judge, she inherited West Virginia’s largest backlog of cases and during her tenure on the court reduced it to the lowest level in the judicial circuit. She held more jury trials than any other circuit judge in the state during the same period. She also visited every prison and secure juvenile correctional facility in the state.

After her election to the Supreme Court in 1988, Workman served as chief justice in 1993 and 1997. As chief justice, she fostered a working relationship between the court system and domestic violence programs, and visited shelters to learn how the court system could be more effective in addressing domestic violence. Workman created the Task Force on Gender Fairness in the Courts and the Task Force on the Future of the Judiciary. She formed the Broadwater Committee, which made reform in the court system’s responses to children’s issues.

Shepherd’s commencement ceremony begins at 1:50 p.m. in the Butcher Center, and admission is by ticket only.