McLaughlin returns to the bench as new circuit judge

by Kate Shunney

Debra McLaughlin of Berkeley Springs has been appointed by West Virginia governor Jim Justice to serve as a judge with the 23rd Judicial Circuit Court, which serves Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties.

McLaughlin fills the seat vacated by Judge Christopher C. Wilkes,

Debra McLaughlin.

following his retirement in January. McLaughlin will serve on the bench through May 2020, the date of the next judicial election.

Justice made the announcement on Wednesday, March 6.

McLaughlin served as Morgan County’s Prosecuting Attorney from 2002 to 2017. In 2017, she was appointed by Justice to the 23rd Judicial Circuit to fill out the term of Judge John Yoder who died during his term. McLaughlin ran to hang onto her appointed judicial seat in 2017, but was defeated by Judge David Hammer.

Following the election, McLaughlin practiced law privately, taking on a number of court-appointed cases. In 2018, she took a position as Assistant Prosecutor with the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney’s office.

McLaughlin will be sworn in to her judicial position near the end of March. She said she expects to hear cases in both Jefferson and Morgan counties, with Morgan County being her “home county.”

McLaughlin said she feels good about returning to the bench, and will be glad to work with court staff in both Morgan and Jefferson counties.

“It will be nice to be back with the court family,” she said.

McLaughlin has worked with the drug court in Jefferson County and said she hopes there will be a time when that’s an option available in Morgan County.

“Hopefully with the Day Report Center up and running here, we can introduce the idea of a Drug Court in Morgan County,” she said.

McLaughlin, a longtime resident of Berkeley Springs, has been active with community groups, St. Vincent de Paul church and local soccer teams. Her youngest child is a sophomore at Berkeley Springs High School and two others are in college.

McLaughlin has practiced law in West Virginia since 1999.