We Can’t Solve This in W.Va.

Clearly, we in West Virginia need a referee — nine of them, actually. We have a genuine constitutional crisis here. It is beyond the power of anyone within our borders to resolve it.

On Thursday, the state Supreme Court issued a ruling regarding the impeachment of Justice Margaret Workman — in effect informing the state Senate it cannot hold a trial on accusations against her by the House of Delegates.

Nevertheless, Workman’s trial will begin Monday, Senate leaders announced. How that will work out remains to be seen.

At the same time, Senate leaders said they will appeal the state court’s order to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If you have been following the state Supreme Court impeachment saga, you know it is a complex affair. Four justices — Workman, Elizabeth Walker, Robin Davis and Allen Loughry — were impeached by the House this summer, on various allegations of misbehavior and mismanagement. Walker already has been tried and acquited.

Davis resigned after being impeached, but is scheduled for a state Senate trial anyway. Loughry also is to be tried by the Senate — and a federal court jury this week is pondering criminal charges against him.

One article of impeachment against Workman alleges she was involved in paying senior status (retired) circuit judges more than the law allows for temporary service. She also is accused of failing as a justice to establish court policies to prevent waste and fraud.

But on Thursday, five circuit judges sitting as the state Supreme Court ruled Workman cannot be tried by the Senate. Their opinion will read to some West Virginians as taking the position that on certain matters, the Legislature has no power to define misbehavior by justices, much less to punish them for it.

That checks and balances system you were taught about in school has broken down in West Virginia. A standoff between the judicial and legislative branches of government is occurring.

That is the very definition of a constitutional crisis.

Someone needs to resolve it — quickly. That someone will have to be the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. Let us hope and pray they can bring some reason and order to what clearly is chaos in West Virginia state government.

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