West Virginia

Kanawha jury awards former ALJ $2.2 million in retaliation case; Governor’s office says case will be appealed

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A Kanawha County jury has awarded a former chief administrative justice $2.2 million in connection with her retaliatory case she filed against the West Virginia Insurance Commissioner’s offices.

The six-member jury made its decision in the Rebecca Roush case this week after a trial that spanned parts of four weeks. Kanawha District Judge Joanna Tabit presided over the trial.

Walt Auvil

Roush’s attorney, Walt Auvil of Parkersburg, said they were able to prove Roush was targeted by the agency for campaigning for higher salaries for female administrative judges hearing worker’s compensation cases in West Virginia.

“The Insurance Commissioner and this agency took a stand at Judge Roush because Judge Roush tried to advocate for equal pay for female administrative judges under her supervision,” Auvil told MetroNews Wednesday.

Roush alleged in her lawsuit that the male judges she oversaw in her role as chief justice made nearly $5,700 more than their female counterparts. She said when she continued to complain about it, insurance commissioner Allan McVey asked her to resign. Roush was eventually informed that she would not be reappointed after her term expired. The actions took place in 2018 and 2019 when Roush was chief justice.

The Justice Department told MetroNews Wednesday that it would appeal the jury’s decision.

CJ Harvey

“The Department of Justice strongly disagrees with the outcome of this case and will immediately appeal the judgment to the West Virginia Intermediate Court of Appeals because we believe many of the court’s judgments are erroneous,” spokesman CJ Harvey said in a statement email reply. “It is also worth noting that many of the allegations made relate to actions that took place during the Tomblin administration.”

Roush began her tenure as an administrative justice judge in 2008. Auvil described her as “relieved” at the jury’s decision.

“The public hearing she was given by the Insurance Commission put her in a very bad light in public and made it difficult for her to move on,” Auvil said. “I think this result to some extent clears the cloud that has been hanging over her reputation and legacy, which up to this point has really been an excellent legacy.”

Auvil awaits the appeal of the state.

“It’s been a long road and there’s still a long way to go before this is all resolved,” Auvil said.

Roush now works as an attorney for the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association.

Auvil was assisted in the case by his son Kirk Auvil.

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