October 30, 2018
Supreme Court candidate Schwartz aims to be predictable, respect taxpayer money
State Supreme Court
By Kyla Asbury
CHARLESTON — West Virginia Supreme Court candidate Bill Schwartz wants to make ensure the court is predictable and respects taxpayer money.
Schwartz, a trial lawyer with Harvit & Schwartz, said his campaign is going well, but he finds it somewhat difficult not to be critical of the legislature or of the court.
"People are constantly mentioning to me that they feel the West Virginia government is tearing itself apart," Schwartz said in an interview with The West Virginia Record. "As a candidate, I can’t really respond to that because there may be something that comes up in the future that I have to decide upon"
Schwartz said he doesn't comment when people ask what he feels about the court or the legislature.
"However, we are at a critical stage here," Schwartz said. "Every day new news comes out that I, as a candidate, have to field questions on. Most of the time, I have to restrain myself in answering those questions."
Schwartz said he constantly comes back to the reason he is running: he believes there is a broken system.
"I’m there to fix it and I need their help to fix it," Schwartz said. "I need their help to help me fix it. All anybody wants is confidence when they go to the court that they’re going to get a fair hearing and that Lady Justice has a blindfold on—that they’re not going to be treated any different from a governor or a janitor, and that’s what I bring to the table."
Schwartz said he believes there are too few people at the table making decisions for the rest of West Virginians.
"The people who are not at that table are on the menu," Schwartz said. "My goal is to put us on the table—get as many people as possible off the menu and put them at the table. The only way the people are going to get themselves at the table is to vote. My goal is to get as many people out there as much information about me as possible. I’m one of the solutions to fixing this problem. The only way to get a seat at the table is to vote. Don’t sit at home, get out Nov. 6 and get your seat at the table because if you don’t, you’re going to be on the menu."
Schwartz said if elected, one of his priorities is to sit down the rest of the court and choose the proper person for the court administrator job.
"I believe that the problems we’re dealing with — the financial problems, the overspending problems — started with a lack of control of the court administrator," Schwartz said. "Part of your job as a Supreme Court justice is to keep control."
Schwartz said he personally believes the job of a justice on the court is to make sure that court administrator sees him on a regular basis.
"If I’m up there, that court administrator is going to get tired of seeing me," Schwartz said. "I’m going to make sure what he spends. I don’t want to get blamed for his problems. And if on my watch, he does this again, it’s on me. And it should be on me. Just like when I run my office, if my secretary does something wrong for a client, it’s on me."
He said he believes justices must have predictability in their decisions.
"I want to make sure to increase the number of oral arguments," Schwartz said. "I want to make sure people know they have access to the court. I’m going to make sure we have fair, consistent, prompt rulings. Justice delayed is justice denied. If you have a case up there we are going to try to get it resolved as quickly as possible and as fairly as possible. Predictable, quick and fair results will begin to build confidence back in the court."
He said recusal goes hand-in-hand with predictability.
"Recusal means the judge removes himself when he believes he has an interest in it," Schwartz said. "Or he thinks the public may think he has interest in it. You don’t rationalize this. You don’t say, ‘Well, I believe I can be fair even though it’s my brother or my lawyer on the other side.’ You ask yourself what is the public going to think about this? That's reasoning enough for me to recuse myself even if I could rationalize it in my own head that I think I could be fair. I don’t trust that. I don’t trust me to make that call. I trust the perception to the public."
Schwartz said justices also need to respect taxpayer money.
"You have to treat it like it’s your family’s money because it is your family’s money," Schwartz said. "It’s your taxes, it’s your neighbor’s taxes. It’s your children’s future. Treat it like that. If you treat it like that and not like it’s somebody else’s money that you don’t have to worry about, we won’t have these problems."
He said it's important that he's not a politician.
"At this time we don’t need politicians appointed by other politicians to take control of our court," Schwartz said. "We need lawyers with a deep background, experience and respect for the law to take control of our court."
He has more than 30 years experience practicing law throughout the state of West Virginia.
"There is a reason I have never gotten into politics before," Schwartz said. "I love what I do and I feel committed to my clients," adding that he is running because he believes lawyers like him need to be on the state high court.
"I have the respect of my opponents, the respect of my clients, and the respect of the judges," he said. "If I get on that court, those trial court judges have seen me in their courtrooms and they’ll know Bill Schwartz is up there and Bill Schwartz is a winner. He’ll help us get out of this."
Schwartz was selected by the National Trial Lawyers Association as one of the top 100 lawyers in West Virginia. He earned his law degree from Washington & Lee and his bachelor's degree from St. John's University.
October 30, 2018
Schwartz seeks seat on high court
MARTINSBURG — Charleston Attorney William “Bill” Schwartz said he thinks he can help the West Virginia state Supreme Court of Appeals to be trusted again by Mountain State voters.
A partner with Charleston-based Harvit and Schwartz, Schwartz is one of the 20 judicial candidates vying for one of the two open state Supreme Court seats in the Nov. 6 election. Schwartz is running for the Division 2 seat.
Schwartz, who has practiced law in West Virginia for 30 years, said his top priority will be to fix the state court system’s money management, which he blames for the profligate spending by the court’s justices.
“Nobody defends the justices spending taxpayer’s money like it’s their own,”Schwartz said during a recent visit to the Eastern Panhandle. “It was like a free for all — like drunken sailors spending taxpayers’ money on an office that costs more than most people will spend on a house.”
Schwartz said that extravagant spending is a sign the court’s checks and balances have broken down.
“That court administrator is in charge of a budget of $130 million that covers our entire judicial system from the lowest magistrate judge up to the Supreme Court,”Schwartz said. “As part of that budget, $30 million is designated as “discretionary spending.”
As a justice, Schwartz said he would restore those checks and balances.
“If I’m a chief justice, I’m going to make sure I appoint the right person — someone who is a real bureaucrat, a real bean counter — and then I’m going to watch him like a hawk; that’s part of your job,” Schwartz said. “I want to meet him or her, whomever that will be, and I want a big part in selecting that person.”
As an attorney, Schwartz said he’s developed a reputation as being a strong-willed lawyer, something he sees as requisite to working in law.
He believes he can funnel that passion as a court justice.
“I’ve spent my adult life as an advocate,” Schwartz said. “I call it passion — passion for justice, and equal opportunity and equal access to the courts is not a vice; I think it’s a virtue.”
Mandated by West Virginia law, county drug courts have been set throughout the state. However, Schwartz said it’s now time to set up a separate court to handle the disenfranchised children of opioid-addicted parents.
“Maybe an entire new section of the court has to deal with just these kids,”Schwartz said. “Not just a drug court for the opioid user, but a court for their kids. There’s a lost generation that just being left behind, and we’re sitting on $32,000 couches while it happens.
“When I meet people when campaigning, they say ‘we can’t handle the fallout from the opioid crisis. We don’t have the court resources, and they’re going back to a house that they don’t belong in.”
Schwartz promised social workers he met along the campaign trail that, if elected, he would address the issue.
“I don’t know how much a justice can control a situation like this, since I’m not a legislator,” Schwartz said. “But I would do my best to at least make sure that this is front and center of what we’re dealing with as justices. Advocating is what I do.”