Cops and Courts

The Honorable Judge Gwaltney takes the bench

Paul W. Gwaltney Jr. was sworn in as the newest judge in the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit during a standing-room-only investiture ceremony held Friday at the Monongalia County Justice Center.  

Current and former judges and attorneys, as well as Gwaltney’s family and friends, attended the ceremony.

“If I ever shook your hand, you were invited here today,” Gwaltney joked about the massive crowd that came to support him. On a more serious note, he said he was “humbled” by the number of people who came to support him. 

“You know, you invite people, you hope that they could come, but to see them here … it means something to you,” he said. “It means one, that they were involved in your life and made a difference to you, but it also means that you mean something to them, so that is significant to me.” 

The now Honorable Judge Gwaltney was appointed to the position by Governor Jim Justice on May 11 to replace Judge Susan B. Tucker, who retired April 28. 

Senior Status Circuit Judge Russell M. Clawges Jr. said it was his “privilege and pleasure to administer the oath of office” to Gwaltney, who leaves an active criminal defense practice where he served numerous counties in north-central West Virginia, to take on the judgeship.  

Gwaltney was accompanied his daughters, Emily and Molly, who held the Bible as their father was sworn in as judge, and his wife Lydia, who performed the robing. 

Before law school, Gwaltney worked as a clerk in the education department for the Louis A. Johnson Veterans’ Administration Medical Center and obtained an undergraduate degree from Bob Jones University, where he participated in the South Carolina Student Legislature and also judged high school debates. 

Gwaltney was admitted to the West Virginia Bar in October 2003, after graduating in the top 15% of his class in May 2003 from West Virginia University College of Law. During his time at WVU he served as executive research editor of the Law Review his third year of law school, and as an associate editor his second year. 

During the first 17 years of his practice, he was a civil litigator. In December 2020, he opened Gwaltney Law Office with the sole purpose of representing individuals in criminal and juvenile abuse cases.  

Most days in the last two years have included hearings in multiple courthouses, and at least one stop at a regional jail to meet with clients.  

Gwaltney married the former Lydia J. Board of Fairmont in 1998 and in 2004 they moved to Morgantown, where they raised two daughters, both of whom are attending West Virginia University — but not studying law, Gwaltney pointed out. 

In 2013, Gwaltney was named a “Rising Star” by the Super Lawyers publication for his outstanding contributions to the legal profession. 

In his spare time, Gwaltney attends Calvary Chapel Morgantown, where his family has worshiped for the last 10 years.   

“Our loss of Paul as a practitioner, is this community’s gain as a judge,” James E. Hawkins, Jr, a close friend and colleague of Gwaltney’s, said during opening remarks. “He exhibits and has all the qualities and characteristics we need as a judge. 

“Nobody will outwork him, nobody will out prepare him, and nobody will out give of themselves to that position,” Hawkins promised. 

Gwaltney said despite his previous experience as a defense attorney, his intention is to come to the job with the mentality that “what the law says, the law says and what the facts say … To allow the lawyers to do their job, argue for their clients to present the best they can so that I can make those decisions based on what the law is and what is in front of me.” 

Gwaltney said, “I come with the sincere desire to get things right, work hard, and just be the fair and consistent judge that [this community] deserves.”  

He will begin hearing cases on Monday and will join Chief Circuit Judge Perri Jo DeChristopher, who was appointed earlier this year, and Judge Cindy Scott as judges in the Monongalia County Circuit Court.