By: Lydia Crawley
The Parsons Advocate
The Honorable Robert Edward Ryan was sworn in as the new 21st Judicial Circuit Judge for Mineral, Grant, and Tucker Counties at the Grant County Courthouse. Ryan was appointed to replace Circuit Judge Nelson following Nelson’s retirement the end of June. At the Investiture Ceremony, the Honorable Thomas S. Kleeh, Chief United States Judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia delivered the Oath of Office.
“This place is a room of serious business and I hold it in a sacrosanct manner,” Ryan said. “People’s lives change in this room for good or bad. It’s a place of decorum and process and fairness.”
Ryan spoke about his expectations and what he hopes to bring to the bench. “I’ve appeared in 44 of 55 West Virginia Counties,” Ryan said. “I have appeared in front of well over 200 judges. So, I have a lot of observation to bring to the bench. I’ve had some bad examples and I’ve had some very good examples and I hope to follow those.”
Ryan explained his outlook on honor and gentlemanly behavior. “General Lee’s Honor Code that he instituted in 1865 was still the only rule in place at the school and it was, ‘Every student shall conduct himself as a gentleman,’” Ryan said. “And if you lied, cheated or steal, there was only one punishment and that was expulsion. There was zero tolerance for anything less than being a gentleman. And that’s what I expect in a courtroom. It’s what I’ve always tried to exhibit in a courtroom.”
Ryan outlined what his view on the courtroom should be. “It should be that no matter where you come from, no matter where your lawyer comes from, no matter what the charge is, what the claim, what the defense, every single person that comes into this courtroom deserves to have their disputes settled peacefully and without fear of passion or prejudice from the bench,” Ryan said. “You should be able to walk into any courtroom in any county, in any state and be confident that you are going to be treated and judged with dignity and fairness and respect. I will strive to deliver exactly that with efficiency, fairness and justice because there is a legal maxim that justice delayed is justice denied.”
Attorney Duke A. McDaniel addressed the perception of Ryan as an outsider to the area in his opening remarks at the Investiture Ceremony. “He was somebody who was supposed to be an outsider,” McDaniel said. “Well, he’s never been to Grant County. I said, ‘Oh, yes he has.’ You know heritage in Grant County is something too many of us forget.”
McDaniel described the family lineage of the Muntzing family in Grant County and the family’s long connection to the law in the county. “I looked up to see how many of the Muntzing people since they come to the United States have become lawyers. Right now, there are 12 lawyers from the Muntzing family and there is also, one judge. After this day, we will have two judges. The first clerk of the Grant County Court was Ernest Muntzing. “ McDaniel also said the family had two Grant County Sheriffs, as well.
McDaniels addressed concerns raised by the public over Ryan’s appointment to the bench. “So, the fact that everyone thought this boy’s an outsider, he’s been coming over here since he was two years old,” McDaniel said. “We must remember that this is only an appointed position and it will be that until May of 2024. In May of 2024, during the primary election, the slate of judges will also be on the ticket. The judges now are nonpartisan and the judges after the election, we will no longer have Tucker County in our circuit.”
McDaniel also spoke on the importance of trial experience in a judge. “This is one important thing for us trial lawyers in the courts,” McDaniel said, “that we have a lawyer that becomes judge that has had trial experience. We have wonderful judges now, but about 90 percent of the judges that we have had in Grant County have been former prosecutors. So, I am so happy that we now have a lawyer with trial experience. I will say for Judge Currier, he was a former prosecutor, and he has learned more quickly than any judge I’ve seen and he is now a very fine civil judge. Follow his footsteps and remember the dress code is a blue sport coat, gray or tan pants.”
During his remarks, Judge Ryan corrected McDaniels on the number of Judges in the family. “At the risk of dishonoring my elders, I do have to correct a few things,” Ryan said. “One. There are now three judges from the Muntzing family. There is my Uncle Gus, there’s my dear cousin Carrie and now there’s me.”
Ryan thanked Judge Currier for his mentorship. “Judge Currier has been a very generous mentor as I’ve been preparing to take the bench and I look forward to learning more from you as I go forward,” Ryan said.
Ryan also thanked his supporters in his comments. “I should probably thank Governor Justice and Baby Dog. I am very appreciative of the trust and the confidence that not only he, but those who spoke on my behalf and petitioned for my appointment. It is an absolute solemn responsibility and just know that I take it as that.”
According to Ryan, he also has roots in Canaan Valley through his ancestor Solomon W. Costner. “Solomon W. Costner, my great-great-great-great grandfather, was the first permanent settler of Canaan Valley. Now if you can imagine going into Canaan Valley on a horse in 1864 with an axe, a saw and a single shot firearm and he made his homestead there. That’s perseverance and toughness and courage that I don’t think I can tell.”
Ryan also thanked his parents. “My dad was a principal. We got to watch him as a leader, as a teacher, as a disciplinarian and you know kids are mean. I mean kids are really mean and we went to separate Junior Highs, we didn’t go to dad’s Junior High, but we all ended up at the same High School. And I cannot think of a person, a kid, that ever said a cross word about my dad. I heard a lot of them say, ‘Man, I spent a lot of time in your dad’s office.’ But they would also finish that, ‘That guy changed my life.’ So we got to watch that and I’m thankful for it. My mom introduced us to the one living God in Jesus Christ, which is the most precious gift.”
Ryan is a graduate of West Virginia University. A reception followed the Investiture Ceremony at the family’s Fairview Farm in Maysville.