WEST UNION, W.Va. (AP) — Judge Tim Sweeney comes across as a man of the people.
Being a people person probably helped get him elected to the Third Judicial Circuit.
Sweeney had developed many friendships in Doddridge, Ritchie and Pleasants counties while running a law practice for nearly 30 years before becoming judge.
"Everyone's a unique individual," he said. "I just find people interesting."
And now, he doesn't view his job as his own achievement, but as an extension of the will of the people.
Sweeney attributed a quote to the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd when he describes his view on politics, an interest since childhood.
"'Politics is the personnel system for democracy,'" he said. "That's so true. I think if we look at politics not as a dirty word — which is kind of what it's come to be — but if we look at it as a way we pick people to run our democracy and realize how important it is to pick people to run our democracy ... you might see more people getting out and voting and taking a role in our political system."
Sweeney was appointed as judge after Judge Robert L. Holland Jr. died in 2010, then elected to the unexpired term in 2012.
Sweeney, who lives on a farm in Pleasant County, has since learned about the hard work involved in a judgeship.
It's tireless work, kind of like being a farmer.
"There are things that have to be done regardless of what's going on in your life, whether there's two feet of snow on or you've got the flu," he said. "Being a judge is a little bit that way. The show must go on."
Sweeney puts in the hours because of his respect for the judicial system.
The former prosecuting attorney sees it as a well-oiled machine, as long as the players do their parts.
"When you're an attorney, it's real easy," he said. "Justice is your side of the case, or your client's side I guess. But when you're a judge, it runs a little bit deeper than that."
Now he spends long hours conducting legal research, trying to determine what the law really has to say about a case.
"I've enjoyed doing that because it's a little more cerebral and academic," he said. "When you go to write and do research, you don't just look for what supports your position. You look for what's out there. When you're an attorney, you don't do that. You know what your position is right out front. You go looking for things to support it."
Sweeney takes his job — including rendering decisions in a timely manner — very seriously.
"I'd be lying if I didn't say that I thought about the effects of my decisions on people and their personal lives," he said. "You consider that. You think about that. But as a judge, you're bound to make a decision based on the law. I can't change that. You take an oath to do that."
His focus is on progress and results, rather than procedure.
"I am not so hung up on formality and demeanor," he said. "If a hearing doesn't start right on time, but the parties are talking, I'll let them talk. They might be able to solve it."
He treats every party in every case the same, according to Third Judicial Circuit Court Reporter Debra Windom.
"A lot of people are very stressed when they come to court," she said. "He treats everyone fairly and he's just courteous... It's apparent every day in every case."
Windom, who has worked in the judicial system for 21 years, also witnessed Sweeney work as a prosecuting attorney.
"He's worked very hard to be an excellent lawyer and now a judge," she said. "He definitely does not take any of that for granted."
Sweeney, who beat his opponent by a nearly 2:1 margin in 2012, said he was thankful for every vote.
"What I'd like for people to know is how much I appreciate the opportunity to have this position and how much I appreciate the people that supported me so I could keep doing what I'm doing," he said. "I'm really grateful to be able to do this. I know it's a lot of responsibility. I understand that, and I take it very seriously. I really want to do a good job."
"It keeps me very busy," he added. "But that's all right. I like being busy."