Acting Chief Justice To Hear Motions in Pretrial West Virginia Supreme Court impeachment hearing
CHARLESTON — As members of the West Virginia Senate prepare to meet as a jury during the judicial impeachment pre-trial hearing today, two of three justices of the state Supreme Court of Appeals have filed motions for the acting chief justice to hear.
On Friday, lawyers for Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justice Beth Walker filed several motions with the Senate Clerk’s Office.
All motions will be heard 10 a.m. today in the senate chamber by Cabell County Circuit Judge Paul Farrell, who was appointed by Workman to replace suspended Justice Allen Loughry. Workman, who would normally preside over an impeachment trial because she is chief justice, recused herself.
Workman, Loughry and Walker were impeached by the House of Delegates last month. Loughry faces six articles of impeachment, Workman faces two articles and all three justices are charged in one article.
J. Zac Ritchie, an attorney for Hissam, Forman, Donovan and Ritchie representing Walker, filed a motion to dismiss the justice from the only article naming her. In the final article of impeachment, Workman, Loughry and Walker are charged as one.
The entire court was charged with of not implementing policies and controls, including having no travel policies prior to 2016; not reporting taxable fringe benefits to the IRS; providing no supervision of spending and purchasing card use; having no policy on home offices; having no inventory system; and not putting projects out for bid.
In the motion, Ritchie argues that Walker — being barely two years into a 12-year term and having not served as a chief justice — was not responsible for the court’s institutional policies. Internal court policies are either decided by the chief justice or by a majority vote of the justices on the court. Ritchie points out that most of the policies were in place long before Walker took her seat on the court in 2017.
“Nowhere in the text…does the House of Delegates allege individualized conduct against Justice Walker — much less any conduct amounting to a removable offense,” Ritchie said in his motion. “…Logic and law dictate that Justice Walker cannot be tried and held responsible as an individual Justice for alleged offenses that could have only been committed collectively by the Court (by majority vote) or by the Chief Justice, the only single Justice with authority to make administrative decisions that can bind the court.”
Ritchie also argues that it makes no sense to convict Walker in the final article since Senate rules of procedure require that all three justices be tried separately.
“The decision to weep-up every then-sitting justice in a dragnet…comes with a cost: the individual respondents will be unable to adequately prepare a defense against allegations that are cast only against ‘the Court’ as a collective whole — decisions that no single Justice, apart from a Chief Justice, can fairly be made to answer for.”
In his second motion, Ritchie requests that no evidence be introduced regarding spending by Walker on office renovations and refurbishing. Walker was charged in an article of impeachment with wasting state funds on approximately $131,000 on “unnecessary and lavish” office renovations and furnishings.
The House voted 51-44 to reject the article, but the article charging all three justices also addresses the spending on office renovations as part of the intuitional failures of the court. Ritchie said since Walker was not impeached for office renovations, that any evidence regarding office renovations should not be used against her during her trial.
“Justice Walker cannot be removed by the Senate for conduct that the House of Delegates expressly concluded did not rise to the level of impeachment,” Ritchie said. “Accordingly, evidence related to renovations of Justice Walker’s personal office should be inadmissible in these proceedings.”
In a motion filed by Benjamin Bailey, an attorney for Bailey and Glasser and representing Workman, Bailey requests that Farrell set a trial date for Workman on Oct. 15. According to Bailey, they need more time to prepare for the trial.
“Because the trial will concern subjects so numerous and varied, an enormous amount of evidence must be obtained and reviewed not only be the defense, but also by the Board of Managers,” Bailey said.
In the motion, Bailey said he has identified more than 60 witnesses and plans to file more than 35,000 pages of documents, with potentially thousands of pages more to come. Bailey said more time was needed.
“In a criminal case of comparable complexity, the parties would generally be afforded six months to digest the legal and factual issues in order to ready themselves for trial,” Bailey said. “In a comparable civil matter, the parties would expect to have no less than one year to prepare their presentations, and frequently much longer.”
As well as being charged in article alongside Loughry and Walker, Workman is charged twice for her role in overpaying 10 out of 34 senior status judges over a statutory limit set in state code. Combined, those 10 judges were paid $271,000 that should not have been paid out.
The third justice — Loughry — is also charged with spending $367,915 on office renovations and furinishings, 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.