Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Diane Mufson: Judge made trip to Mingo a positive

It happens to most of us. We envision our daily life in a certain way and while we know we must alter our plans at times, there is a boundary to our expectations. For example, many of us have been to Myrtle Beach or anticipate a trip there, but few of us ever envision visiting Mongolia.

Back in the late 1980s or early 1990s, I had traveled to quite a few West Virginia state parks, cities and some scenic by-ways. But Mingo County was not on my "must see" list. Actually, it was on my "let's not go there list." Rumors were rampant about its corruption, crime and hostility toward outsiders.

This is where former state Supreme Court Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard, who recently passed away, came into my life and provided some positive memories about my one-day visit to Mingo County.

At that time, as a licensed psychologist, I frequently evaluated parents and children regarding abuse and neglect charges. I would spend many hours interviewing and testing the involved parties and then write a detailed psychological report that would be forwarded to the agencies working with the families. Occasionally, these cases would end up in court.

"Spike" Maynard was the Circuit Court Judge in Mingo County when the case of a family I had evaluated came before him. He, unlike most judges who received my reports, wanted more than my detailed evaluation. He wanted me there in person.

So, I received a subpoena to come visit lovely downtown Williamson. This did not fit into any of my plans or aspirations. I had a busy psychology practice and travel to the Mingo County Courthouse was going to be a full day away from work. Additionally, court testimony was out of my comfort zone.

I tried a variety of rational approaches to avoid this trip. It was clear my excuses had fallen flat when I received a direct call from Judge Maynard. His words were something to the effect, "I want you here and if you are not on your way on the said date, the sheriff will come and get you." I was going to Mingo County.

So, now I had to ready my testimony for court. Many folks said, "Don't sweat it," and indicated that there wasn't much to prepare for, since the people down in Mingo weren't the equal of the folks up here in Cabell County. Actually, people said lots of worse things.

Being a person who always likes to be prepared, I thoroughly reviewed my data. That was good, because the first question one of the attorney's asked was the standard deviation of the test instrument I was using. The subsequent questioning made it clear that the attorneys in Mingo County were every bit as capable as those in other county courthouses.

Judge Maynard took care of another concern. I did not want to wait many hours before I was called to testify. He promised that when I arrived, I'd be called to present my information immediately. He was true to his word.

It was a grueling day for my car and me. On the drive home, somewhere between Kermit and Crum, an immense pothole caused serious axle damage to my car. But more importantly, I learned that Judge "Spike" Maynard really cared about the children and families that came before his court and that quality professionals can be found in Mingo County as well as all areas of our state.

Diane W. Mufson is a retired psychologist. She is a former citizen member of The Herald-Dispatch editorial board and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page. Her email is and her website is


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