Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Princeton Times

May 7, 2010

Who will hold the gavel? Mercer voters to finalize judge position in primary election

BLUEFIELD — PRINCETON — Omar Aboulhosn and Timothy Boggess have anxiously awaited many verdicts in their legal careers. But, they are both eager to hear the decision Mercer County voters hand down Tuesday.

Aboulhosn, the incumbent judge who currently occupies the Ninth Circuit bench in Mercer County, is facing a challenge in the Democratic primary by Boggess, a 14-year veteran of the Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Because there is no Republican on the ballot in this year’s election, the man who wins the primary on May 11, earns the robe and the gavel.

•••

When legislators approved the creation of Mercer County’s third circuit court position in 2008, Gov. Joe Manchin appointed Aboul-hosn, a newly elected Family Court judge, to the circuit court post. Aboulhosn was officially sworn in as a circuit court judge in early 2009.

Previously, the native Mercer Countian graduated from Princeton Senior High School, Concord College and West Virginia University’s law school. He returned home, where he married his wife, Weena, and entered a legal practice for the next 17 years.

They have one daughter— Emily.

Over the years, Aboulhosn served as a Mercer County magistrate, Princeton municipal court judge, chief mental health examiner, volunteer Teen Court judge and was elected to Princeton City Council — a position he relinquished when he opted to run for Family Court judge.

Although he won the Family Court seat, Aboulhosn was appointed circuit court judge before he assumed the bench.

“I am the judge. I’ve been doing the job,” he said this week. “I’ve handled every kind of case a circuit court judge would be expected to handle.”

Throughout the campaign, both sides have made judicial experience a top priority.

“I am the only candidate with judicial experience,” Aboulhosn said.

Throughout the 16 months he’s ruled in circuit court cases, Mercer’s newest judge said he has established a record of being tough on violent crime, including burglaries and break-ins, and he makes it a point to consider all the factors when handing down a sentence. Armed with a presentence investigation prepared by the probation department, he said he weighs the evidence, the crime and the suspect’s previous record when deciding whether someone is a candidate for alternative sentencing or will be remanded to law enforcement custody.

“It’s a daunting task. I realize that when I make a decision, it changes someone’s life,” Aboulhosn said. “If I send someone to jail, obviously, that changes their life, but it also has the power to change lives if I choose another sentence, too.”

He said he leans on his understanding of the law, prayer and close consideration of the case in any decision.

“I treat this job very seriously,” he said.

Through everything, Aboul-hosn said he seeks justice.

“When the governor appointed me to this position, he asked me to put aside my advocacy ... I no longer had a team. I became the referee in each case,” he said. “I don’t care which side wins. All I care is that justice is done.”

Many of Aboulhosn’s campaign efforts have focused on his community involvement, including his work with the Adam Chambers Foundation, the Jonathan Powell Hope Foundation, a mentoring and Read Aloud program he began at Montcalm Elementary School, Boy Scouts of America and more. He has been a Princeton Church of God Sunday School teacher for 12 years, once served as legal advisor for the Abel Crisis Pregnancy Center, is a volunteer youth soccer coach and has been active in Upward Basketball programming. He previously served as a board of directors member for ChildLaw Services and was vice president and board member of Legal Aid of West Virginia.

He’s adamant that those activities have not been for show.

“I was doing that before I ever thought about becoming a judge,” he said. “Those activities that I do give you perspective. It’s very humbling to be in a position of judging someone. To do that, and do it well, I think you have to have a broad range of experiences. I believe I am clearly the most qualified candidate in this race.”

•••

Boggess is also a native of Princeton. After high school, he briefly left the region to study at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, but immediately after completing his legal education, he returned to Mercer County, where he and his wife, Gina, made a home and welcomed their three children — Madeline, Atticus and Sadie.

“My brother, Todd, and I both decided that whatever we chose to do had to be something that we could bring back home and make a career with. Community is very important to our whole family, and we didn’t make those decisions just to be back home. We made them so that we would be able to provide back what the community has given us,” Boggess said.

Both brothers chose careers that indeed brought them back to Princeton. Todd Boggess became an architect and joined the family firm of E.T. Boggess Architects. Timm Boggess became an attorney in December 1994.

He entered a private practice and was tapped as a part-time prosecuting attorney. In 1998, Boggess joined then-prosecuting attorney Bill Sadler as a full-time assistant prosecutor.

In August 2006, when then Circuit Court Judge John Frazier retired, Sadler was appointed as the new judge, and Boggess became prosecuting attorney.

As the county’s chief prosecutor, he points out he has been involved in every sort of criminal, civil, abuse and neglect proceedings taking place in Mercer County.

“To be an effective judge, you’ve got to know what’s going in the courtroom. A prosecutor is in the courtroom more than the average attorney,” Boggess said, explaining that a prosecutor, and his office, handles the state’s side of all cases on the circuit court docket.

Meanwhile, private attorneys may choose their cases and specialties.

“Prosecutors are uniquely qualified to become judges, because they fill what is called a quasi-judicial role already,” Boggess said. “A lot of people think I’m just concerned about getting a conviction, but as a prosecutor, my role is really to make sure justice is served. As a prosecutor, I’ve been trained to make decisions, and how to make decisions.”

Mercer County ranks second in the state in the number of people incarcerated. Boggess believes that number is directly related to the effectiveness of the prosecution.

He has successfully prosecuted 21 murder cases, handled more than 50 felony jury trials, and led the cases against more than 100 drug dealers who ultimately went to jail or prison.

Like Aboulhosn, Boggess said he also believes a wide range of experience and involvement in community functions is essential to be an effective judge.

“I have a pretty broad base of personal experience, as well,” he said, referring first to growing up around his father’s family business. “I saw how important it was to treat people fairly and how important it is to work hard.”

He takes comments that his opponent is more community-minded than him to heart.

“People who know me and my family know that we’re involved. I’m not joining organizations while I’ve been campaigning, because that’s not why I get involved,” he said.

Boggess is a member of the Mercer County Opportunity Industries Board of Directors, a member of the Princeton Sacred Heart Catholic Church Finance Council, a Rotary Club of Princeton board member, vice chairman of the Mercer County Board of Health and a member of the Mercer County Community Corrections Board.

In addition, he and his family have been very active in the establishment of the Chuck Mathena Center for Performing Arts and the project to move Princeton Public Library from its Center Street location to the former Princeton Post Office on Mercer Street.

“I’m not a politician. I do what I think is right,” Boggess said.

1
Text Only
Princeton Times
Business Marquee
Princeton Times Sports
Princeton Times Obits
Princeton Time Opinion