A recent court appointment in West Virginia highlights the interplay between a court system’s internal management and its external environment. Gary Johnson served as a state circuit court judge for 24 years before losing his reelection bid last year by 220 votes. Last month, his opponent, Stephen Callaghan, was suspended from his judicial duties for two years for improper conduct during he campaign. (Callaghan’s campaign apparently issued a flyer implying that Judge Johnson partied at the White House with Barack Obama, an action deemed to be a violation of the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct and Rules of Professional Conduct.)
Judge Johnson could not undo the election results, but he landed on his feet quickly. In January, he was appointed interim Administrative Director of the West Virginia courts. Yesterday, the state supreme court gave him the job permanently.
Judge Johnson was praised as a perfect fit for his new position, which oversees all the administrative work of the state court system. But his appointment also illustrates how a court system can maintain internal consistency and excellence even when its specific resources (including judges) are largely controlled by outsiders. The voters may have removed Judge Johnson from the bench, but the court system in its organizational capacity was willing and able to bring him back into the fold.