This week brought several updates to the impeachment proceedings for the West Virginia Supreme Court.
On Aug. 13 of this year, the House of Delegates voted to impeach Justices Beth Walker, Robin Davis, Margaret Workman, and Chief Justice Allen Loughry on various articles, including for Davis and Loughry’s out-of-control office expenses. Davis announced her retirement shortly thereafter, ensuring there will be a special election for her replacement.
On Sept. 26, Davis filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court against multiple House of Delegate members, including local representative George “Boogie” Ambler and Governor Jim Justice. She states in the federal suit that since she retired the day before the House vote took place, she should not have been removed from office. The lawsuit also says that since Governor Justice appointed two interim justices to replace Davis and Ketchum, if the three remaining justices were removed from office then all five justices of the Supreme Court will be appointed by the governor, and not elected into office as the West Virginia Constitution requires. The document summarizes that, “Justice Davis has consistently cooperated with state and federal agencies who seek to investigate the allegations underling the Articles of Impeachment – and has been fully forthcoming in aiding investigators in uncovering any potential corruption.”
Davis had spent over $500,000 on redoing her office chambers. That includes two Edward Fields rugs totaling over $28,000. She also purchased a $8,000 desk chair from Germany with state money. Davis was named in four of the 11 counts of impeachment for the overspending, voting twice to overpay senior status judges, and for not implementing financial controls and internal policies.
Later on, in a surprising turn of events, on Tuesday, Oct. 2, the West Virginia State Senate voted 32-1 to censure Justice Walker. Walker had been facing just one count of maladministration, which the Senate voted to dismiss. Senate President Mitch Carmichael acknowledged that Walker made “significant errors in judgment,” but clarified that the single charge did not warrant an impeachment from office. Walker had spent roughly $130,654 of taxpayer’s money renovating her office, which had already been renovated by the occupant before her.
After the Senate meeting, Walker posted on Twitter, “Thank you West Virginia senators for your careful deliberations. I remain committed to serving our citizens and look forward to working with you toward improved budgetary oversight.”
Under the West Virginia constitution, a justice can be impeached for “maladministration, corruption, incompetency, gross immorality, neglect of duty, and any high crime or misdemeanor.” Maladministration can mean a variety of things, it has no definition other than what one applies to it. To ultimately remove a Supreme Court Justice from office, the House of Delegates must first pass the Articles of Impeachment before a trial is held in the State Senate.
More updates will be available as the trials continue.