I haven't been following the story of West Virginia's state Supreme Court about to be impeached, and yes, I mean the entire court over a spending scandal, but it seems like it has just become a very important national story. One of the five justices has retired, one is facing a number of federal charges, and the other three are are also in trouble after investigation by the state House of Delegates.
The articles of impeachment were introduced against the remaining four justices this morning.
The West Virginia House of Delegates Judiciary Committee has drafted 14 articles of impeachment against the four sitting justices on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
The articles were presented to the committee at about 9:25 a.m. Tuesday morning with mention of all four justices – Margaret Workman, Robin Jean Davis, Allen Loughry and Beth Walker.
Justice Loughry faces six charges, and Chief Justice Margaret Workman faces five charges.
Justices Robin Jean Davis and Beth Walker each face six charges.
Some of the articles charge more than one justice at a time with a given impeachable offense.
Each justice is charged with “unnecessary and lavish” spending of state dollars to renovate their offices in the East Wing of the Capitol.
Loughry faces additional charges related to his use of state vehicles for personal travel, having state furniture and computers in his home, and for handing down an administrative order authorizing payments of senior status judges in excess of what is allowable in state law.
Davis and Workman are charged with actually signing documents authorizing that senior status judges be paid in excess of what’s allowable in state law.
Additionally, Beth Walker is charged with unnecessarily allowing the state to pay $10,000 to a contractor to write an opinion in a case in 2017. Current Supreme Court Interim Administrator Barbara Allen, who was not an employee of the court at the time, authored the opinion.
Workman also is charged with facilitating the employment of an unnecessary employee to do I.T. work for the court in 2014. That employee worked on Workman’s campaign prior to working for the court.
The committee met in executive session for about five hours Monday night, when the articles were drafted.
Members of the committee are considering each article one-by-one.
If the committee approves any or all of the articles, the articles will be presented to the full House of Delegates.
A simple majority, or 51 members, of the House will have to approve the articles for them to advance to the Senate.
In the Senate, two-thirds of the elected members, or 23 senators, will have to approve the articles. If they approve the articles, the Senate will be responsible for facilitating an impeachment trial.
Anyone found "guilty" of committing an impeachable offense by the Senate will be removed from office and permanently banned from seeking public office in the state.
Basically this has never been attempted before in West Virginia for one justice, let alone all five. It's widely unprecedented, and both parties seem to be working together on getting this done. I'm not sure if there's a larger game here afoot or what, but I do know that impeachment and removal of a state's highest court isn't something that should ever be considered lightly.
I'll definitely keep an eye on this.