‘Judicial hellhole’ label turning around

No single action or campaign by the state Legislature will bring businesses rushing to West Virginia, bearing new jobs for state residents. But every little bit helps, and there is evidence one of lawmakers’ priorities is bearing fruit.

For years, the state was labeled a “judicial hellhole” by one organization that monitors the fairness of both courts and state laws. Just two years ago, a survey conducted for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce placed us dead last among other states in how business executives viewed our legal climate.

A follow-up, conducted by Harris Poll for the chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform, was completed earlier this month. The result: West Virginia ranks 45th.

That is a gigantic improvement in just two years. It should make economic development efforts easier, simply because business leaders have reason to be less worried their companies will not receive a fair shake in Mountain State courts.

State Senate President Mitch Carmichael said of the poll results that conservatives in the Legislature “have been laser-focused on creating the kind of environment that businesss would find irresistible, and it appears we are making significant strides.”

But, Carmichael, R-Jackson, added, “We have more work to do …”

Indeed, legislators and Gov. Jim Justice have a mountain of tasks to undertake if they are to make the state a must-stop location for executives seeking sites for new plants, stores, office facilities and other job creators. Tax reform, education and infrastructure come to mind.

While state officials have just begun driving West Virginia down the road of economic opportunity, they have made great progress on improving the legal climate, to the point that we now rank ahead of some very big business states. The recent poll placed us ahead of Florida, California, Illinois, Missouri and Louisiana.

Kudos to legislators, to Gov. Jim Justice and former Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for making West Virginia courts less intimidating places for businesses. That is not all we need — but it is a very good start.

Let’s keep up the good work.