West Virginia Justice Gets Probation for Fraud

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – As both restoration of his reputation, and restitution to the public, a former West Virginia judge has been instructed to perform pro bono work as a paralegal while serving probation for fraud.

Menis Ketchum was chief justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals when he posed for this Jan. 5, 2012, photograph in the court chambers in Charleston, W. Va. (Bob Wojcieszak /The Daily Mail via AP, File)

Former state Supreme Court Justice Menis E. Ketchum II appeared in federal court Wednesday for sentencing on a charge of wire fraud stemming from his misuse of a state-owned vehicle and credit card during a 2014 golf trip to Virginia.

This past July, Ketchum agreed to plead guilty to the charge after resigning from the bench following approval of articles of impeachment by the House of Delegates’ Judiciary Committee against him and the four other justices for misuse of funds to renovate their offices.

Prior to his sentence, Ketchum, 76, said he was “sorry, but sorry is not an excuse.” He took the occasion to specifically apologize to the “overworked and underpaid” state judges and his wife, and three children.”

He added: “They are good people, and don’t deserve the hurt and embarrassment.”

Though his actions made a “single blemish on a stellar career,” U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver told Ketchum it “borders on the unfathomable that you would risk so much for so little.”

Taking note of his 51 years of service in the legal profession prior to his disbarment last least year, Copenhaver sentenced Ketchum to three years probation and ordered him to pay a fine of $20,000 plus $750 in restitution to the state. Instead of home confinement as a term of his probation, Copenhaver said, “I’m going to go a different way.”

After reading letters of support, including two written by Huntington, West Virginia, attorneys Mike Farrell and Marc Williams, Copenhaver ordered Ketchum to work with not only them but other attorneys on pro bono legal projects. He instructed Ketchum to give special attention to clients impacted by opioid addiction.

From 1980 until his election to the court in 2008, Ketchum served as a partner in the Huntington law firm of Green, Ketchum, Bailey and Tweel.

Gov. Jim Justice appointed House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, to fill Ketchum’s vacancy following his resignation. This past November, Armstead successfully won election to fill Ketchum’s unexpired term.

Armstead has said he plans to run for the full term next year.

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