Who presides over the impeachment trial of a state Supreme Court justice if the entire state Supreme Court is being impeached?
It’s an absurd constitutional hypothetical West Virginians are left to grapple with, after the West Virginia House of Delegates Judiciary Committee drafted articles of impeachment against four justices on the state’s highest court.
Five justices sit on the state Supreme Court in West Virginia. The state legislature has drafted articles of impeachment against Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justices Robin Jean Davis, Beth Walker, and Allen Loughry. The court’s fifth justice, Menis Ketchum, retired in late July. Ketchum will plead guilty to two federal corruption charges on Aug. 29.
Loughry was placed on unpaid administrative leave in June after a state commission lodged a 32-count complaint against him, alleging pervasive violations of the state ethics code. He has since been indicted in federal court for fraud, witness tampering, and making false statements to investigators. (RELATED: First Justice Suspended From Scandal-Ridden State Supreme Court)
The remaining three justices — Workman, Davis, and Walker — face impeachment for wasting government resources and failing to effectively administer the state courts. All three spent large sums of taxpayer dollars on lavish improvements to their chambers in the state capital, which cumulatively totaled almost $750,000, and allegedly abused state travel resources. Workman and Davis also allegedly authorized compensation for other state judges in excess of the amounts allowed by West Virginia law.