W.Va. House managers present resolution to drop charges against Workman and Walker
CHARLESTON – In a surprise motion, impeachment managers with the House of Delegates agreed to drop articles of impeachment against two justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
That would mean suspended Justice Allen Loughry would be the only remaining member of the supreme court to face an impeachment trial and possible removal from office by the senate, acting as a jury.
Delegates John Shott and Andrew Byrd, impeachment managers appointed by the house to act as prosecutors during impeachment trials, announced the deal during a pre-trial hearing Tuesday morning at the State Capitol Building. As motion was made to adjourn until 2:30 p.m. so senators could consider the motion.
The deal – worked out between Chief Justice Margaret Workman, Justice Beth Walker, and house impeachment managers – was worked out over the last few days. Workman and Walker acknowledged out-of-control spending by the supreme court cited in the articles of impeachment adopted by the house last month, as well as lack of policies by the court to control and limit spending.
According to the agreement, Workman and Walker will work to implement reforms, policies and procedures to control spending, use of state vehicles and equipment, and bid out projects. The justices will work to follow all laws and procedures regarding purchase card use and ethics rules.
In return, the house managers will present a resolution of censure and, if approved, the house managers would move for articles of impeachment against Workman and Walker to be dropped. If the senate doesn’t agree to drop the articles of impeachment against the two justices, the agreement can’t be used against them later during trial.
“The agreement we’ve reached is an acknowledgement and acceptance of the problems we have identified,” Shott said. “Number two, an acceptance of responsibility for their role on those issues identified…and number three, a commitment to continue the processes and policies they’ve been in the process of implementing in the last few months that will address and hopefully prevent future reoccurrences.”
“This agreement isn’t out of the ordinary or abnormal,” Byrd said. “What makes this unique as pointed out by Delegate Shott is two components: accountability and proactive commitment. This document is the first one I’ve seen in these proceedings where there has been some acceptance of responsibility. To the second, proactive commitment, we need to have these policies in place.”
Attorneys for Workman and Walker thanked the house managers for coming to an agreement on the resolution and expressed their remorse and support for fixing issues cited in the articles of impeachment.
“(Workman) cares deeply about the court – the third branch of government – and is acutely aware of the damage these events have done to respect for and confidence in the judiciary,” said Ben Bailey, counsel for Workman. “Her number one priority has been to repair that trust for the public and to repair the morale of the hundreds of employees in the judicial system.”
“Justice Walker has acknowledged responsibility for the court’s spending, including on the justice’s personal office” said Mike Hissom, counsel for Walker. “She has accepted responsibility…she has pledged to work towards improving the court’s processes, policies, and oversight of spending, and restoring the public trust in the court.”
The House of Delegates adopted 10 articles of impeachment spread out between Workman, Loughry, and Walker. Workman is charged individually in two articles, and Loughry is charged alone in six. Walker is charged – along with the remainder of the sitting justices – with not implementing policies to control spending, inventory, travel use of state property, and taxable benefits.
Workman is charged twice with the overpayment of 10 senior status judges over statutory limits set in state code, costing the state $270,000. Loughry is charged with spending $367,915 on office renovations and furnishings, using state vehicles and fuel cards for personal use, taking an antique desk and a couch donated to the court to his own home, having state computers set up in his home for use by his wife and son, and lying under oath to a legislative committee.
Loughry will face trial Oct. 2 on a 25-count federal indictment, including charges of obstruction of justice and witness tampering. The state Judicial Investigation Commission also charged Loughry in a 32-count complaint for violations of the Judicial Code of Conduct.