West Virginia Senate Preparing To Put Supreme Court Justices on Trial

Photo by Steven Allen Adams West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Justice Robin Davis announces Tuesday she will resign from the court. Her decision came the day after the House of Delegates voted to impeach her and three other justices on the high court.

CHARLESTON — The House of Delegates did its part in impeaching justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and it’s now up to the state Senate to prepare to put the justices on trial.

The Senate will convene Monday to consider a resolution creating the rules of procedure for the trial of justices Allen Loughry, Margaret Workman and Beth Walker.

“The process is that the Senate is to convene to adopt a resolution that contains the rules of the process and the manner in which the process is to be conducted during the trial of impeachment,” said Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson.

“Also contained within those rules will be dates and times, particularly time periods, that allow those that have been impeached to request evidence that will be presented against them at the trial, as well as an opportunity to respond from the House managers of the impeachment process to provide that evidence,” Carmichael said.

Loughry, Workman and Walker were impeached Monday by the house, which voted for 11 articles of impeachment. Justice Robin Davis, who also was impeached, resigned Tuesday and will not face trial in the Senate.

Carmichael said he expects the process for preparing for the trial to take 15 days from the time the Senate passes the rules of procedure. From there, Carmichael expects a mid-September start date at the earliest.

As for how long a trial would last, Carmichael said he isn’t sure. The proposed rules of procedure call for trying each justice separately and going through each article of impeachment.

“We did not put any specifications in terms of saying ‘you have X amount of time to defend yourself’ or to prosecute the case,” Carmichael said.

Workman, who serves as Chief Justice, appointed Cabell County Circuit Judge Paul Farrell as an acting justice to fill in for Loughry, who is suspended without pay pending the outcome of a federal criminal case against Loughry. Farrell would also serve as acting Chief Justice because Workman will be on trial. Carmichael said he believes that any conflict of interest Farrell might have will be worked out before the trial.

“I think that works itself out,” Carmichael said. “I have a lot of confidence in Judge Farrell. Everything we can humanly do to eliminate the potential for favoritism we would want to do. The chief justice of the Supreme Court will be the presiding officer. It’s named in the constitution. Of course, in this case (Workman) cannot. But it gives the court the ability to name the replacement judge. I don’t know how they’ll proceed with that. In any case, I have absolute confidence in the process.”

In other news, Democratic leaders in the House released a statement encouraging Loughry to resign after additional charges were added to his federal indictment.

“It is obvious to anyone who is paying attention that Justice Loughry will be impeached or removed from his office, as he is facing a myriad of corruption charges,” said Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha. “He should do the right thing and resign today to allow voters to choose a replacement.”

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