Greenbrier/Monroe Family Court Judge candidate Kelly Kemp believes people should get ‘a fair shake from an impartial judge’

By Matthew Young, RealWV

“I see this as an extension of my public service. I’ve been the attorney for the Bureau for Child Support Enforcement for 28 years, and I want to continue serving. I think I’m the best person for the job.”

That’s what Family Court Judicial candidate Kelly Kemp told RealWV on Thursday, regarding her decision to seek election to the bench. Kemp is challenging for Division 1 in the 15th Family Court Circuit, which serves Greenbrier and Monroe Counties.

“I’ve dedicated my career to family law,” Kemp said. “Family court is not a happy place – it’s basically where people go to get divorced, and settle matters of child custody and child support. Family court judges hear domestic violence cases as well.”

“People come to family court when a relationship is ending,” Kemp continued. “It’s the family court’s job to decide the custody of children, and who gets what property, or to provide guidance to the parties to agree amongst themselves. I think it’s important for the court to treat people with dignity and respect.”

Most people who appear before a family court judge, approximately 80% Kemp says, do so without the benefit of an attorney. 

“They’re anxious, so it’s important to treat them respectfully,” Kemp noted. “And the people who come before the court deserve to have a prompt hearing. I think the court needs to manage the caseload and the dockets well so that cases move along and things don’t get stalled out. Nobody wants cases like this to drag on forever.”

After graduating from the West Virginia University College of Law in 1990, Kemp began her career as a general-law practitioner in the Hinton area. In 1996, Kemp relocated with her family to Greenbrier County, where she served as Attorney for the Bureau for Child Support Enforcement for nearly 30 years. Kemp recently left that position in order to campaign for the Family Court Judge position. 

“When people come before the court, they should feel that they’re getting a fair shake from an impartial judge,” Kemp explained. “You always base decisions on the law, and you have to leave your personal feelings out of it.”

“I know a bit about that,” Kemp continued. “For all these years that I’ve worked for the Bureau for Child Support Enforcement, I represented the State of West Virginia – I did not represent either party. I had a neutral position, so I’m well-practiced with impartiality.”

“You are the person who you are, and you bring all of that with you,” Kemp added. “I believe my experience makes me the right person for the job.”

Her years in family law, Kemp said, have helped her to cultivate the appropriate temperament and disposition for dealing with people who are often having very bad days.

“Sometimes people start crying, and sometimes they’re afraid,” Kemp noted. “Just a reassuring word or a kindness goes a long way. Not in a coddling way, but a judge often has to wear different hats depending on the situation.” 

Over the course of her now 33-year career, Kemp has worked on thousands of cases, and practiced before three different family court judges in four different counties. In addition to Greenbrier and Monroe Counties, which make up the circuit she is currently campaigning for, Kemp has practiced family law in both Summers and Pocahontas Counties as well. 

“I look forward to using my experience and my temperament to help people to resolve their disputes,” Kemp said. “People have to be able to move forward with their lives, especially when there are children involved. That’s what I’d like to be able to help people do.”

“And occasionally, family court judges get to perform weddings,” Kemp added. “That’ll be fun, I look forward to having the chance to be able to do that.”

For more information about Kelly Kemp’s campaign for Family Court Judge, visit her Facebook page at Kelly Kemp for Family Court Judge. 

Elections for all county judges in West Virginia will be held on Primary Election Day, Tuesday, May 14. It is not required for voters to be registered with a political party to vote in judicial elections.

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