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WVU Law to honor former justices Cleckley, McGraw, and Starcher

MORGANTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA – At its commencement on Saturday, May 16, the West Virginia University College of Law will present the Justitia Officium award to former West Virginia Supreme Court justices Franklin D. Cleckley, Darrell V. McGraw, and Larry V. Starcher.

The Justitia Officium recognizes outstanding contributions and service to the legal profession and it is the highest honor bestowed by the WVU College of Law. It was established in 1978 in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the college.

“We would be hard pressed to find three jurists more deserving of this honor,” said Gregory W. Bowman, the William J. Maier, Jr. Dean of the College of Law. “They have made enormous contributions to the state of West Virginia and to the legal profession. They truly embody the very best ideals of lawyers who excel, lead, and serve.”

In 1994, Cleckley became the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia. During his two-year tenure, he wrote over 100 majority opinions. 

He is the author of the “Handbook on Evidence for West Virginia Lawyers” and the “Handbook on West Virginia Criminal Procedures.” Both volumes are referred to as “the bible for West Virginia’s judges and attorneys” by the Supreme Court. 

From 1969 until his retirement in 2013, Cleckley taught at the WVU College of Law. He was the first African-American member of the faculty and staff at the law school and the first full-time African-American professor at West Virginia University.

Cleckley was born and raised in Huntington, West Virginia, and he received his J.D. from Indiana University School of Law. Following service as U.S. Navy JAG officer during the Vietnam War, Cleckley earned an LL.M. from Harvard University.

McGraw served as a justice for the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia for 12 years, including a term as Chief Justice, and as the state’s attorney general for 20 years.

At the Supreme Court, McGraw established himself as a progressive. Major decisions during his tenure on the bench had a significant impact on state law in areas such as work place safety, the funding of public education and public pensions, and human rights law.

As attorney general, McGraw greatly expanded consumer protection. He was also involved in many national cases including the 1998 multi-state tobacco settlement that resulted in $1.8 billion for West Virginia.

McGraw earned his undergraduate, master’s, and law degrees from West Virginia University. Before attendingWVU, he served three years in the U.S. Army. He is a native of McGraws/Tipple in Wyoming County.

Starcher served on the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia from 1997 to 2008, and was Chief Justice in 1999 and 2003. He has presided over 100 trials as a Senior Status Justice/Judge since retiring from the Supreme Court.

[Snippet Error: This file has been deleted.]Starcher served as a Monongalia County Circuit Court Judge from 1977 to 1996, including 18 years as the court’s Chief Judge. Since 2009, he has been a lecturer in law at the West Virginia University College of Law.

On the Supreme Court, Starcher promoted diversity of court staff, developed the circuit judge law clerk program, worked for improvements in the administration of the judiciary, and reactivated the gender fairness task force. 

As a circuit judge, Starcher was active in juvenile justice reform and the use of work-release and community service as punishment for non-violent offenders. He also presided over 20,000 asbestos injury cases and sat as judge on a six-month state buildings’ asbestos trial.

Starcher was born near Henry’s Creek between Roane and Calhoun counties. He earned his bachelor’s degree and his J.D. from West Virginia University.



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