MORGANTOWN, W.Va. Paul W. Gwaltney Jr. has been sworn in as the judge in Division 1 of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, serving Monongalia County. Fellow attorney James Hawkins provided opening remarks, Senior Status Judge Russell Clawges administered the oath of office, and his daughters Emily and Molly held the Bible.
In his remarks, Gwaltney said we are all products of our experiences and reflected on his hardworking family in Washington state. He said his father, a 45-year employee of the United States Postal Service, worked his shift, came to take a nap, then went to the local school to coach whatever sport was in season, depending on the season. His mother traveled for more than an hour on public transportation every day to sell candy in downtown Seattle.
He said he is a product of their hard work and sacrifice.
“I’m so grateful to the governor for entrusting this position to me,” Gwaltney said. “For the opportunity to serve my community in this fashion, I’m so grateful.”
As a criminal defense attorney specializing in child abuse cases, I traveled to jails to meet with clients to make sure I got all the facts. During this work, he met and began to work with another attorney, James Hawkins, who shared the same passion for his clients.
“I’ve spent many an hour at the regional jails, not over night but many an hour there,” Gwaltney said. “And I think because of that and my conversations with clients and their families, I do bring a different perspective to things.”
Hawkins said before he met Gwaltney, he saw his name frequently on sign-in logs at different jails across the state. Hawkins said that when he finally met Gwaltney in a courtroom and watched him work, he was completely impressed, and the two became friends and co-workers.
“Nobody will outwork him,” Hawkins said. “Go to court, do your prep, go to jail, start over the next day and on the weekends—that’s who he is.”
His previous experience as a criminal defense attorney will have an impact on his approach as a judge. After years of watching court proceedings where liberty or parental rights were in jeopardy of being lost, the importance of the work cannot be understated, according to Gwaltney.
“The case is the most important day in their lives—recognizing the significance of that,” Gwaltney said. “I hope that people will understand that I come to the court prepared with the desire to get each decision correct.”
Gwaltney said he will run for office in 2024.