West Virginia

The West Virginia House Judiciary Committee has officially adopted articles of impeachment against all four justices of the state’s highest court.

Justices Allen Loughry, Robin Davis, and Elizabeth Walker — along with Chief Justice Margaret Workman — have all been accused of a litany of crimes including corruption, maladministration, neglect of duty, and incompetency, among others. The judges named in the articles of impeachment are both Democrats and Republicans. And in West Virginia, judges are elected by the entire state’s voters, rather than appointed by the governor.

According to NPR, lawmakers accused the four remaining members of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals (the fifth retired just before impeachment proceedings began) of wasting public resources on lavish office updates, improper use of state vehicles, and overpaying certain staffers. Justice Loughry in particular was accused of fraud, witness tampering, and lying to federal investigators.

“This is truly a sad day for West Virginia, but it is an important step forward if we are going to restore the public’s confidence in the judiciary,” State Representative John Shott (R), chairman of the committee, said after the articles of impeachment were adopted.

The Wall Street Journal detailed some of the more extravagant expenditures justices made with taxpayer money:

Lawmakers allege Justice Loughry spent $363,000 to remodel his office, charging $31,924 for a couch and $33,750 for a new floor. In an op-ed published in a local newspaper in December, he decried the expenses and blamed court administrators for the purchases.

An office redesign of Justice Robin Davis, a Democrat, came to a half-million dollars, a draft of the impeachment articles released by the judiciary committee says. The price tag allegedly included a $20,500 rug and an $8,000 chair.

Justice Elizabeth Walker, a Republican elected as a nonpartisan two years ago, allegedly spent $131,000 to remake her office, including $27,000 on furnishings and wallpaper.

Interestingly, the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on expensive office upgrades for West Virginia Supreme Court justices happened in the same state where teachers shut down the state’s public schools in a wildcat strike to protest low pay and cuts to their already meager benefits.

NPR reports that the vote to impeach is scheduled for a full vote on the house floor on Monday. Should the house vote to impeach the four justices, their fate would ultimately end up in the hands of the state senate, which will be required to conduct an impeachment trial. Two-thirds of senators will have to vote for conviction if the judges are to be removed from their positions.

 

Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.

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