Just one Pocahontas County resident will be considered to replace Judge Joseph Pomponio on the 11th Judicial Circuit bench. Roger D. Forman, of Forman Law Office in Beard Heights, has applied to fill the vacancy created by Pomponio’s retirement. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin will make the final selection, following a preliminary selection of candidates by the West Virginia Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission.
The Governor’s Office provided a list of 11 attorneys who have applied for the appointment. With the exception of Forman, who lives in Buckeye, all of the candidates reside either full-time or part-time in Greenbrier County.
The list includes Forman; Greenbrier County Prosecutor Patrick I. Via; Greenbrier County Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer P. Dent: Greenbrier County Assistant Prosecutor Britt Bernheim Ludwig; Kanawha County Senior Assistant Prosecutor Fred J. Giggenbach, Jr.; Bureau of Child Support Enforcement attorney Kelly K. Kemp; former Harrison County and Nicholas County Assistant Prosecutor Ryan H. Keesee; former part-time Pocahontas County Prosecutor J. Steven Hunter, Mark D. Moreland, William Pennington and Robert Eugene Richardson.
Forman said a judgeship is the pinnacle of a lawyer’s career.
“Once I learned to be a lawyer and became proficient at it, it was a goal in my life,” he said. “I ran for judge when I lived in Kanawha County and ran a good campaign and had a pretty decent result. I think the highest honor you can have in the law is to be a member of the judiciary.”
Forman has extensive experience in the types of cases he would oversee as a circuit court judge.
“I have a broad practice,” he said. “I’ve practiced civil and criminal – the highest level of criminal law in state and federal courts – murders, administrative hearings, cases for injunctions and civil rights. I’ve done some divorces. You name it, I’ve done it.”
The long-time attorney respects the American justice system.
“I believe in the legal system,” he said. “I think the legal system is the fairest way to solve problems and I’ve been a problem solver,” he said. “It’s civilized and people can go to a fair hearing and get a decent result, win or lose, if they have all their facts out. I think a judge can make the system work for people. Once you become familiar with all the rules and watch lots of good judges, you develop role models and you learn. It’s something I would be honored to do.”
Forman thinks it would be equitable to have a judge from Pocahontas County.
“If someone’s on the bench from Pocahontas County and in Pocahontas County, that person is available to help make the hard decisions, to issue the warrants, to be up day and night talking to the police and prosecutors when they need something done,” he said. “The most important thing we have right now is child abuse and child neglect. They’re the number one priority and they need the attention. If you’re there, you can give them more attention if you’re a phone call away.”
“The Buckeye lawyer supports the drug court concept.
“I’m involved in the drug court and I like that a lot,” he said. “I think it’s a good alternative way to sentence people, non-legally.
In his spare time, Forman enjoys the great outdoors – which brought him to Pocahontas County.
“I love to go down the Greenbrier in my kayak, after I finish working, and kayak back home,” he said. “I love hiking in the mountains. I love traveling and seeing new places. I love watching my kids grow up.”
Forman’s wife, Arla Ralston, works with him in the law office as a paralegal and authorized Social Security claimant representative. The couple’s oldest son, Cyrus, is a National Park Ranger in New York. Their youngest son, Isaac, is a lawyer, practicing in Charleston.
Forman graduated from Antioch Law School in 1975 and practiced law in Iowa until 1980, when he moved to West Virginia. He handled hundreds of disability and black lung claims for the United Mine Workers of America, as well as labor, wage collection, health and safety and employment disputes. Forman opened his own law office in Charleston in 1984 and opened a branch office in Buckeye in 2008. He and his wife reside in Buckeye.
In 2010, the legislature created the Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission to assist the governor in filling midterm vacancies on the supreme court of appeals, circuit court, and family court. The commission is composed of eleven members. The governor (or the governor’s designee), the president of the West Virginia State Bar, and the dean of the West Virginia University College of Law serve as ex officio commission members. In addition, the governor appoints four non-lawyer members and four lawyer members. Within 90 days of a judicial vacancy, the commission submits to the governor the names of no more five and no fewer than two best qualified applicants.
Forman hopes the Governor selects the candidate from Pocahontas County.
“It’s really important for the well-being of Pocahontas County to have people who are from Pocahontas in the offices that affect Pocahontas – at least in some,” he said. “We have very little of that. We have people from other counties and Pocahontas could use its share of the officeholders, who really know and love Pocahontas, because it’s a very special place.”