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Justice Thomas Burk Miller (April 1, 1929-August 12, 2008) was born in Buffalo, New York. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1950 and served in the U.S. Navy for three years during the Korean War. He later attended the West Virginia University College of Law, graduating in 1956. Miller served as a justice with the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals from 1977 to 1994, running as a Democrat. Before and after his judicial stint, he practiced with what is now Schrader, Byrd & Companion in Wheeling.

The accession of Justices Miller, Sam Harshbarger, and Darrell V. McGraw Jr. to the Supreme Court in 1977 constituted a liberal revolution. The revolution ended the next time they faced the electorate. Justice Miller was easily reelected, but William Brotherton replaced Harshbarger in 1984 and McGraw was defeated by Margaret Workman in 1988. Miller resigned from the court in 1994 and returned to his law firm in Wheeling.

The cases the former justice considered his most significant include Morningstar v. Black and Decker (1979), which held that the court had the ability to create (rather than ‘‘find’’) common law; Bradley v. Appalachian Power Co. (1979), where the court abolished the comparative negligence rule; and La Rue v. La Rue (1983), which created out of whole cloth the concept of equitable distribution of marital assets. The court also said that homemakers in divorce cases were entitled to have a monetary value placed on their services. Justice Miller was disappointed with the court’s decision in Hinerman v. Daily Gazette Co. (1992), a libel suit brought by a Weirton attorney. In his dissent, Miller wrote ‘‘the majority essentially changed our libel law by misstating the facts and misinterpreting Supreme Court cases.’’

Miller, who had not evidenced any previous interest in politics, led the ticket in both the primary and general elections in his 1976 Supreme Court race, unusual for a candidate from the Northern Panhandle. He repeated the feat in his 1988 campaign. He retired in 1994. Justice Miller died in Wheeling.

This Article was written by H. John Rogers

Last Revised on December 07, 2015

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Cite This Article

Rogers, H. John "Thomas Burk Miller." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 07 December 2015. Web. 17 October 2018.

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