Beth Walker ’87 took office as a justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court in January 2017 — and two years later, in January 2019, she’ll become its chief justice.
“It is such a huge honor to be selected by my fellow justices,” Walker told The Collegian. “It’s a really important leadership position in our court, and I’m incredibly honored.”
The court’s five justices unanimously voted Walker into the chief justice position late last month. The chief justice holds office for a year, and her duties include overseeing other levels of court within the state, ruling on recusal motions in the court, and presiding over oral arguments, Walker said.
West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Evan Jenkins, who’s known Walker for nearly 20 years, said Walker will be an asset to the court.
“Beth is motivated by her respect for the law, devotion to the Constitution and love for the people of West Virginia,” Jenkins said in an email. “Soon to be ‘Chief Justice Walker’ is a strong leader with a reputation of hard work and deep devotion to fair and equal access for all. She is viewed by her colleagues on the bench and those who appear before her in court as being a person of honesty and integrity.”
Walker’s election followed turmoil in the West Virginia Supreme Court: Earlier this year, the state legislature voted to impeach all five justices for lavish spending of state funds.
Walker said she intends to address these concerns in her new leadership role.
“In the past several months we’ve had some controversies about the supreme court, and so my goal is to help restore the public’s confidence in our supreme court,” Walker said. “I’m particularly focused on transparency and accountability and working closely with the legislature on budgetary issues.”
In Tuesday’s election, a ballot measure passed amending the state constitution so that the legislature will be in charge of the state judiciary’s budget, rather than the judiciary itself.
“This amendment will require us to present a budget and the legislature will have the final call,” Walker said. “So it’s going to be really important to establish trust and cooperation with the legislature, especially on budget issues, so that we can be responsible and so that taxpayers can be assured that we are handling their money appropriately.”
At Hillsdale, Walker was “a very good student, very serious about her work and about serving the college,” said Professor of History Tom Conner, who had Walker in a few of his classes and knew her as a student worker in the admissions office while he was director of admissions.
Walker was a member of the Chi Omega sorority and senior class president during her time at Hillsdale. She also helped start the student ambassador program and worked for The Collegian.
Walker was personable and hardworking as well, Conner said, and has “fundamental integrity.”
“I’m thrilled,” he said of her new advancement.