West Virginia is no stranger to marching to the beat of its own drum, but in mid-August, the state’s House of Delegates voted to impeach all its justices on its Supreme Court of Appeals. Three of the four – Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justices Elizabeth Walker and Allen Loughry – will face impeachment trials in the state senate. The remaining justice, Robin Davis, announced her retirement mere hours after she was impeached; the court’s fifth justice, Menis Ketchum, resigned well before impeachment proceedings began.
Why West Virginia Impeached Its Justices
The four impeached justices were charged with failing to carry out their administrative duties. Additionally, Loughry, Davis and Workman were impeached for paying retired senior status judges more than they were legally allowed to, and Loughry and Davis also fell into hot water for spending state money to renovate their offices. Finally, Loughry was also impeached for using state vehicles and computers. (Just for a sense of scale, the justices spent over $3 million of taxpayer money for those office renovations.)
West Virginia is already a cash-strapped state.
Now, all four remaining justices are facing impeachment trials in the state senate.
How Does Impeachment Work?
Impeachment doesn’t always mean you’re removed from office. Instead, impeachment is the beginning of the process that could remove an elected official from office. It’s like an indictment; it’s someone saying, “We believe you did this wrong, and now we’re putting you on trial. If we find you guilty, we’re going to see if removing you from office is a fitting punishment.”
West Virginia’s Constitution requires a two-thirds vote to remove a justice from office.
If a justice who has more than two years left in his or her term is removed from office less than 84 days before a general election, he or she can be replaced by an interim justice who will serve until the next election. In West Virginia, that occurs in 2020.
You can keep track of the proceedings in West Virginia here if you’re interested.
What Do You Think?
Do you feel like these are impeachable offenses, or do you think that because taxpayers elected these officials, they shouldn’t be facing charges in West Virginia’s state senate? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter.