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Former W.Va. Supreme Court Justice Larry Starcher dies

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Larry V. Starcher, a retired Supreme Court Justice and
Monongalia County Circuit Judge, passed away Saturday, Dec. 24. He was 80.

“Justice Starcher devoted his life to public service, as a circuit judge, Supreme Court
justice, and law professor,” said Chief Justice John Hutchison. “He was a mentor to many
young lawyers, law students, and law clerks. His love for the law school was known to
all. His monetary gifts were important, but his gift of teaching was the most important of
all. He had an incredible work ethic and was a champion of many causes. He was a loyal
friend to many and will be sorely missed. On behalf of my fellow justices, I send sincere
condolences to his family.”

Justice Starcher was born at home in Calhoun County, W.Va., on Sept. 25,
1942, one of seven children born to Cleo Earline and Susie Starcher. He was raised in
Spencer, in Roane County, and graduated from Spencer High School in 1960.
He earned his bachelor’s degree (1964) and his law degree (1967) from West Virginia
University. Prior to being elected circuit judge in 1976, he served as an Assistant to the
Vice-President for Off-Campus Education at West Virginia University, as Director of the
North Central West Virginia Legal Aid Society, and as a private lawyer.

He served as circuit judge for 20 years, 18 as chief judge. While sitting as a circuit judge,
Justice Starcher served as a special judge in 23 of West Virginia’s 55 counties. He
presided over the trial of 20,000 asbestos injury cases and a six-month state buildings
asbestos trial. As a trial judge, he was active in the area of juvenile justice, including
establishing alternative learning centers for youths at risk and a youth shelter. He also
pioneered the use of work release and community service as punishment for nonviolent

In November 1996, he was elected to a full 12-year term on the Supreme Court of
Appeals. He served as chief justice in 1999 and 2003, and he promoted action in several
areas of judicial administration, specifically the Court Facilities Committee, Public Trust
and Confidence in the Judiciary, Mental Hygiene Commission, Court Technology
Summit, Self-Represented Litigants Task Force, State Law Library improvements, and he
reactivated the Gender Fairness Task Force.

In 2004, in partnership with the Mountain State Bar, West Virginia’s historic minority
bar association, Justice Starcher and his senior law clerk, Thomas Rodd, initiated the J.R.
Clifford Project, a series of statewide community programs and publications based on the
life and work of J.R. Clifford (1848-1933), West Virginia’s first African American

He retired from the Supreme Court at the end of 2008 but continued working as a senior
status judge by appointment. He also served as an adjunct lecturer at the West Virginia
University College of Law until 2020, teaching pre-trial litigation and trial advocacy, and
he advised the Lugar Trial Association. “He was beloved by his students,” said
Charles DiSalvo, Woodrow A. Potesta Professor of Law at WVU.

Justice Starcher held all offices in the West Virginia Judicial Association, including
president in 1992-93. He was a regular instructor at judicial conferences and was honored
by many civic and community groups, including the NAACP, Jaycees, and Trial
Lawyers. In 1978, he was a Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities at
Harvard University.

He is survived by his wife, the former Rebecca Wiles, and three children, Mollianne,
Victor, and Amy. Molli is a graduate of the West Virginia University College of Law,
Victor the West Virginia University School of Medicine, and Amy the West Virginia
University Master of Public Administration program.

“I got to know Justice Starcher as a faculty member at the College of Law, where he
generously shared his real-world courtroom experience with his trial advocacy students.
His students, including my husband, benefitted from his vast experience and good humor
in the classroom,” said Justice Beth Walker. “Mike and I extend our sincere condolences
to Justice Starcher’s family.”

“Justice Starcher rose from humble beginnings to serve in a wide variety of roles within
West Virginia’s legal community and judiciary,” said Justice Tim Armstead. “He
concluded his long and distinguished career by sharing his experiences with countless
students. I express my sympathy to his family and friends at this difficult time.”

“Throughout his 32 years of service as a Judge or Supreme Court Justice, Larry
Starcher’s idealism was a model for West Virginia lawyers and his fellow judges,” said
Justice William R. “Bill” Wooton. “Justice Starcher was a passionate advocate for
everyone who needed a helping hand: children, the poor, victims of discrimination, the
mentally ill and mentally challenged, those addicted to alcohol or drugs, and victims of
physical, sexual and/or mental abuse. He was a strong believer that anyone facing
criminal charges deserved a fair trial. On a personal level, he was an exemplary husband,
father, and grandfather, and he was a dear friend and mentor of mine for over 50 years.
Larry Starcher left an indelible mark on the legal history of West Virginia.”

Justice C. Haley Bunn said, “Justice Starcher was a dynamic law professor who truly
cared about his students and the WVU College of Law. He will truly be missed by
generations of West Virginia attorneys.”

“I am so saddened to learn of Justice Larry Starcher’s death. He was my good friend for
more than 50 years,” said former Justice Margaret Workman. “As an undergraduate
student at WVU, I volunteered in his first Monongalia County campaign and later served
as his colleague on both the circuit court and the Supreme Court. I have never known a
person with greater compassion for poor people, working people, and minorities. Larry
will always be remembered as a passionate voice for the voiceless. My thoughts and
prayers are with Becky and all of their family.”

“Larry Starcher, Judge of the Circuit Court of Monongalia County (17th Judicial Circuit),
was an outstanding jurist and champion for the people of Monongalia County and the
state of West Virginia. May he rest in peace and his memory be a blessing to all who
knew him,” said Monongalia County Circuit Judge Phillip D. Gaujot.