I awoke this past Friday morning to a Facebook post by a former colleague from my time at the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard. That sadness, however, was quickly replaced by a flood of fond memories of the gentleman who welcomed me from the minute I began my tenure at the Court and with whom I had shared countless laughs and our fair share of spirited disagreements over the law, sports, history and life in general. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding his departure from the Supreme Court or my disagreements with some of his legal decisions, I will always be grateful to have known Justice Spike Maynard the man. I think the post from which I learned of his passing said it best: "As a former employee of the Court, I have been asked many times what I thought of Justice Maynard. Everyone always wanted to hear something salacious, but all I could ever say was that he was incredibly kind to me." There is no doubt in my mind that this sentiment has been echoed by many in recent days.
When I arrived at the Court in February 2005, we were the new kids on the block and there were some who were not happy that we were there. Not Justice Maynard. He went out of his way to make me feel welcome and to offer whatever assistance he could provide to acclimate me to the Court and its procedures and policies. He took time to get to know me as a person and always, always treated me with respect even when we disagreed over legal philosophies and decisions. Justice Maynard treated everyone he worked with, from his fellow Justices, to the other Justices' staffs, to the clerks, to the administrative staff with respect and dignity. No job was too small to be deemed insignificant or trivial. Everyone contributed to putting forth the best possible product and no contribution was too small to be acknowledged or recognized by him. In the nearly four years I worked at the Court during his tenure, I do not believe I ever heard him raise his voice or say an unkind word to any Court employee.
Justice Maynard was part of a group I had lunch with often, which afforded me the opportunity to get to know him as a person, develop a friendship with him and appreciate the fact that he truly was a kind man who cared about those around him. I was always amazed me that he would know the names of our waitress or waiter wherever we dined and would ask them specific questions regarding their lives or families because he had taken the time on previous visits to get to know the individual as a person. Over the years, Justice Maynard would make an effort to cheer me up if he saw I was having a bad day, offer advice on men or simply make a nice comment on a new outfit I was wearing. He was the first to offer fatherly advice. Justice Maynard was an example of the philosophy that regardless of your position in life, you should treat others with respect and kindness and regardless of another's position, they are worthy of your respect and kindness until they do something to prove otherwise.
Justice Maynard was extremely proud of his military service and truly loved his country. The stories he would tell were always entertaining. He loved history and he loved the law. He was also extremely stubborn. One of my favorite memories of Justice Maynard was an argument we had over lunch one day over my ancestry. Yes, we argued over my ancestry. We were having a discussion about family histories and I stated that I was a third generation American as my great-grandparents were Lebanese immigrants. Being the stubborn and literal person that he was, Justice Maynard argued that was not possible because Lebanon did not exist at the time my great-grandparents immigrated to the United States. My response was that I only knew what I had grown up knowing my entire life - we were Lebanese. This discussion just happened to be on a day that the Court was holding oral arguments. Before he returned to the bench that afternoon, Justice Maynard took the time to print information off of the internet about the Republic of Lebanon gaining independence in 1943 and to bring to me in my office to prove his point. I could only shake my head and laugh. Once Justice Maynard took a position, he stuck with it. He would argue his point relentlessly but never did so in a mean, derogatory or insulting way. He would listen respectfully to my side but would stand steadfast on his. Many times, particularly with legal arguments, in the end we often just had to agree to disagree.
Whether you agreed with Justice Maynard's legal decisions or politics or not, those things alone do not make a man. I was there during the last years of Justice Maynard's service to the citizens of West Virginia and while I did not always agree with him, I can say a few things with absolute certainty. Justice Maynard loved West Virginia. Justice Maynard loved America. Justice Maynard loved the law. Justice Maynard was always kind and respectful to those around him. Justice Maynard will be missed by those who had the privilege to know him as a person and those who had the privilege to work with him, including me. Rest in peace Justice Maynard.