(a) The Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission shall assist the Governor in filling judicial vacancies. The commission shall meet and submit a list of no more than five nor less than two best qualified persons to the Governor within ninety days of the occurrence of a vacancy, or the formal announcement of the justice or judge by letter to the Governor of an upcoming resignation or retirement that will result in the occurrence of a vacancy, in the office of justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals, judge of a circuit court or judge of a family court. The Governor shall make the appointment to fill the vacancy, as required by this article, within thirty days following the receipt of the list of qualified candidates or within thirty days following the vacancy, whichever occurs later.
(b) The commission shall consist of eight appointed members. Four public members shall be appointed by the Governor for six-year terms, except for the initial appointments which shall be staggered in accordance with subsection (c) of this section. Four attorney members shall be appointed by the Governor for six-year terms, except as provided in subsection (c) of this section, from a list of nominees provided by the Board of Governors of the West Virginia State Bar. The Board of Governors of the West Virginia State Bar shall nominate no more than twenty nor less than ten best qualified attorneys for appointment to the commission whenever there is a vacancy in the membership of the commission reserved for attorney members. The commission shall choose one of its appointed members to serve as chair for a three-year term. No more than four appointed members of the commission shall belong to the same political party. No more than three appointed members of the commission shall be residents of the same congressional district. All members of the commission shall be citizens of this state. Public members of the commission may not be licensed to practice law in West Virginia or any other jurisdiction.
(c) Of the initial appointments made to the commission, two public members and two attorney members shall be appointed for a term ending two years after the effective date of this section, one public member and one attorney member shall be appointed for a term ending four years after the effective date of this section, and one public member and one attorney member shall be appointed for a term ending six years after the effective date of this section.
(d) The Governor, or his or her designee, the President of the West Virginia State Bar and the Dean of the West Virginia University College of Law shall serve as ex officio members of the commission.
(e) Members of the commission shall serve without compensation, except that commission members are entitled to reimbursement of travel and other necessary expenses actually incurred while engaged in official commission activities in accordance with the guidelines of the Travel Management Office of the Department of Administration, or its successor entity. The Governor's Office shall cooperate with the commission to ensure that all resources necessary to carrying out the official duties of the commission are provided, including staff assistance, equipment and materials.
(f) The commission shall adopt written policies that formalize and standardize all operating procedures and ethical practices of its members including, but not limited to, procedures for training commission members, publishing notice of judicial vacancies, recruiting qualified individuals for consideration by the commission, receiving applications from qualified individuals, notifying the public of judicial vacancies, notifying state or local groups and organizations of judicial vacancies and soliciting public comment on judicial vacancies. The written policies of the commission are not subject to the provisions of chapter twenty-nine-a of this code, but shall be filed with the Secretary of State.
(g) A majority of the commission plus one shall constitute a quorum to do business.
(h) All organizational meetings of the commission shall be open to the public and subject to the requirements of article nine-a, chapter six of this code. An "organizational meeting" means an initial meeting to discuss the commission's procedures and requirements for a judicial vacancy. The commission shall hold at least one organizational meeting upon the occurrence of a judicial vacancy. All other meetings of the commission are exempt from article nine-a, chapter six of this code.
(i) The commission shall make available to the public copies of any applications and any letters of recommendation written on behalf of any applicants. All other documents or materials created or received by the commission shall be confidential and exempt from the provisions of chapter twenty-nine-b of this code, except for the list of best-qualified persons or accompanying memoranda submitted to the Governor in accordance with the provisions of subsection (j) of this section, which shall be available for public inspection, and the written policies required to be filed with the Secretary of State in accordance with subsection (f) of this section.
(j) The commission shall submit its list of best-qualified persons to the Governor in alphabetical order. A memorandum may accompany the list of best-qualified persons and state facts concerning each of the persons listed. The commission shall make copies of any list of best-qualified persons and accompanying memoranda it submits to the Governor available for public inspection.