MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Appointed Monongalia County Circuit Court Judge Paul Gwaltney continues to speak to voters as part of his bid for a full term on the Division 1 seat on the 21st West Virginia Judicial Circuit.

Gwaltney, a long-time attorney who has served on the bench since he was appointed by Governor Jim Justice in 2023 to replace Judge Susan Tucker after her retirement, will face two other candidates in the non-partisan race as part of the 2024 primary election on May 14. As he travels across the county to meet with voters to discuss his goals if he’s elected to his first full term, Gwaltney wants to be considered a candidate who approaches every case fairly and will support any way to help Mountain State residents get the justice they deserve.

“When I was seeking the appointment, I made it clear to the Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission to the Governor that I recognize that for those before me, the decision I make is probably one of the most important days in their lives,” said Gwaltney. “And I treat it as such,” he said.

One topic that Gwaltney and the other candidates running for the Division 1 seat on the 21st West Virginia Judicial Circuit have discussed is the establishment of a family treatment court. While there’s an expectation that some establishment of such a court will be approached on a state level, Gwaltney, if elected, hopes to increase local involvement in the court, which would offer different avenues for people with drug addiction-related charges to get treatment and avoid family conflicts. In Monongalia County, Gwaltney hopes that the close proximity of West Virginia University will be able to be explored.

“What I would like to do is leverage the university, we have many students in social work that need community service hours,” said Gwaltney on WAJR’s Talk of the Town. “They can’t, right away, be in visitation, but as people graduate and get closer to reunification, that’s something they could do,” he said.

In regards to handling cases on the bench, Gwaltney emphasizes that the amount of case preparation that he partakes in plays a major role in how justice is served, regardless of the issue. This includes hours of conversations with attorneys on each side, case workers depending on the person facing the bench, and a review of case law in the past that will allow him to make the best ruling as possible on an individual basis. This effort, which he feels can be confirmed by any person in the Monongalia County legal community who has had him preside over a case, is something voters can take from him heading into the ballot box.

“I meet with my probation officers before every sentencing, I spend time with them, discussing with them the individual that’s before me,” said Gwaltney about some of what he does ahead of sentencing.

Gwaltney will face Monongalia County Public Defender’s Corporation Chairman Michael Simms and attorney Natalie Sal in the 2024 primary election. The winner will also be on the seat for an eight year term, where they will preside over cases in Monongalia County that are not able to be handled by lower courts. With the election expected to have a significant impact on the county court system, Gwaltney encourages voters to remember his reputation during his time on the bench and his efforts to offer every individual a fair trial in his courtroom.

“I consider is that the right sentence for the defendant, but is it also the right punishment in the situation from the victim’s eyes, it’s finding that balance,” said Gwaltney. “It’s tough, but it takes the preparation, hopefully the people that have been before me can see that I put that in,” he said.

Early voting for the 2024 primary election is from May 1 until May 11. Election day is May 14.


NOTE:This article was corrected on Sunday, May 5 after it originally stated that Judge Paul Gwaltney is seeking re-election.