PHILIPPI, W.Va. — For the first time in a century, West Virginia’s 19th Circuit — made up of Barbour and Taylor counties — has two circuit judges, with the newest judge sworn into office Wednesday.
Shawn David Nines was appointed to the position by Gov. Jim Justice Dec. 11 and took his oath of office Jan. 2 before a packed courtroom in the Barbour County Courthouse.
Nines, a native to both counties, said the addition of a second judge was needed because of the caseload.
“The caseload has been so high. We are in the middle of a drug epidemic, abuse/neglect cases, criminal cases, just the numerous cases resulting in numerous court time,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to get things done in a faster fashion or a more efficient fashion than we have before because there was just a limited number of court time, so hopefully we can run the system a little bit smoother because we have two judges to handle the case load.”
Since 2007, Nines has been an attorney with his own practice in Grafton. He previously served as an assistant prosecuting attorney in Taylor and Barbour counties, as well as city attorney for Grafton.
Based on that experience, Nines is optimistic that the 19th Circuit will be able to increase its quality with now having two judges and thus more time to be deliberate with important matters.
“It was really hard, and as a prosecutor I know this, it was really hard to even get a court date because we had one judge for two counties and were overloaded with cases in both counties,” he said. “Now we’ll have two judges, and we should be able to get cases in a little bit faster and that should result in the system running a little bit more efficiently.”
The criminal aspect and the abuse/neglect aspect that he’ll face as a circuit judge are areas Nines has great experience with as an attorney.
He’s seen first-hand his beloved home area become plagued by those issues that now bog down the system and continue to increase exponentially. It’s an epidemic that Nines says is hard to watch.
“I can’t tell you what the cause of it is,” Nines said. “Just about every criminal case that we have has a drug component to it, just about every abuse/neglect case we have has a drug component to it, so I see the result of it. The answer to it, I’m not sure.
“That’s certainly treatment, it’s certainly addressing the problem, and it’s something that we’re working on,” he said. “That may be outside of the judiciary to take care of it, but it’s something that we’re working on. It started out with opiates, right now this circuit has a problem with methamphetamine.”
Though he’s very honored to be sworn in as the newest circuit judge for the 19th Circuit, Nines does admit that he never had plans of becoming a judge in any capacity.
“I never really had the idea that I would be a judge. Truth be told, I was an engineer, and that’s really what I thought I was going to do. When I got done with my graduate degree in petroleum engineering I thought, ‘I’m already on the school track. Let’s go to law school,’ and that’s what I did,” he said. “Even in law school I really didn’t know that I was going to come home, but when I came home, I realized that the judiciary law system locally has a huge impact in a small community, in Barbour and Taylor counties, and you can see that impact. It became very important to me, and that’s why I stayed.”