Greenbrier Valley Family Court Judge candidate Christine Stump discusses experience, love of family law

By Matthew Young, RealWV

“I think that I am really the only candidate who can bring a level of experience that our community deserves. I’ve handled well over 1,000 divorce cases. I’ve been practicing law for 38 years now, 26 of those in family law, and I think that our community deserves better.”

That’s what Attorney Christine Stump told RealWV on Wednesday, regarding her decision to seek election to the bench as Family Court Judge for the 15th Circuit, which serves Greenbrier and Monroe Counties. 

After earning her law degree from Tulane University in 1986, Stump was one of 22 Attorney General’s Honor Graduates selected to join the United States Justice Department in Washington D.C.

“I spent three years with Main Justice, and then became an Assistant United States Attorney in Alexandria, Virginia,” Stump said. “I was with the Justice Department for 12 years, and pretty much in trial non-stop the whole time. I was a litigator in the Criminal Division, and a division called Narcotics and Violent Crime.”

“I’m a West Virginian by choice,” Stump added. “When I left the Justice Department, I moved to Pocahontas County. I started my practice in Pocahontas, Randolph, and Greenbrier Counties in 1997. All of my 26 years of Family Law have been in West Virginia.”

Her transition into family law, Stump explained, was relatively smooth as the result of her extensive trial experience. 

“Family law is an active trial practice,” Stump said. “It was a good transition because of my years in the courtroom. It’s a comfort level that I have. And because of the nature of criminal cases, it establishes a demeanor of being relatively calm when there’s lots of chaos going on.”

“The cases in criminal law were very intense,” Stump continued. “You learn very quickly to not allow the issues to affect you, while still maintaining your ability to be empathetic toward those issues.”

“I enjoy family law a great deal,” Stump added. “Mostly because I am able to help my clients.”

Her client-base, Stump says, is evenly split between men and women, which is how she prefers it, noting, “That way it’s a good barometer for me to know that I’m not exhibiting any level of bias.”

If elected, Stump said her immediate priorities will be addressing the current backlog of cases, and crafting a more efficient schedule for the court’s docket.

“Our family courts are governed by something called the Rules For Practice and Procedure,” Stump explained. “Those rules set out very strict statutory timeframes. In a divorce case, the rules say it is to be completed by final order within 240 days. In our domestic violence cases, you are to have a hearing within 10 days. In an infant guardianship, you are to have a hearing within 10 days. These timeframes are being disregarded.”

“The very first thing that is going to be absolutely necessary, is that the backlog of cases has got to be cleared,” Stump added. “I’m in family court here in Greenbrier and in Monroe almost every day, so I experience it almost every day. It’s heartbreaking to have cases where there are serious issues that have to be addressed, and litigants are waiting three and four months just for a temporary hearing.”

Currently, Stump practices in nine different counties across the state.

“I’ve seen what works, I know what works, and I know that you can follow the rules and get the cases heard timely,” Stump said.

A significant contributing factor to the ongoing court delays, Stump says, is the lack of any Friday hearings in the Greenbrier Valley.

“If you’re not scheduling your docket so that it’s meeting the needs of the community, It’s not going to work,” Stump noted. “These are issues that need to be addressed quickly so we know who’s paying the mortgage, and we know who’s contributing to the household finances, and we know that the children are being supported. If you do these things immediately, they carry into the case, and it means that bad things are not going to happen to children or marital property.”

“The court controls the docket,” Stump continued. “If the court doesn’t take control, it spirals out of control. The judge is the one who has to be on top of that. This is a full-time job, and requires a full-time effort.”

“I want to do this because I’ve reached a point where I think this can take my collective knowledge and put it to really good use,” Stump added. 

To learn more about Christine Stump’s campaign for Family Court Judge, visit her Facebook page at Elect Christine Stump Family Court Judge. Stump will also be appearing at The RealWV’s Candidate Debate at the Lewis Theatre in Lewisburg, at 6 p.m. on Monday, April 8.

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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