U.S. Supreme Court Won’t Hear State Impeachment Process Appeal
CHARLESTON — The U.S. Supreme Court Monday decided not to hear the West Virginia Legislature’s appeal of the state Supreme Court’s interference in the impeachment process.
The U.S. Supreme Court released an order list Monday morning which said the certiorari – or the request for a review of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeal’s 3-2 decision on Oct. 11, 2018, that put a halt to impeachment trials for Justice Margaret Workman and former justices Allen Loughry and Robin Davis – was denied.
Eight of the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court met Oct. 1 to vote on what cases to hear during their 2019 term which started Monday. The state Senate and House of Delegates separately filed for certiorari, but the cases were combined into one.
“I am gratified that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld my position by refusing to hear the appeal of the dismissal of the impeachment articles filed against me,” Workman said in a statement Monday. “With this order from the nation’s highest Court, we can finally rest knowing that the impeachment proceeding that consumed so much time and energy last year is over.”
Workman and four state Supreme Court justices were impeached Aug. 13 after the House of Delegates adopted 11 articles of impeachment culminating from alleged misspending, mismanagement of the court, use of state property for personal uses by one or all of the remaining justices on the court at that time.
The articles also included charges of approving overpay for senior status judges in violation of state code.
Workman was slated to face an impeachment trial to remove her from office by the state Senate, but she filed suit against the Senate to halt her trial, arguing that the House did not follow the procedures they adopted for impeachment in June 2018. She also argued that the House violated the separation of powers by claiming justices violated the Judicial Code of Ethics.
Her case was heard by five circuit court judges acting as the Supreme Court after the remaining justices recused themselves. In a 3-2 decision, the appointed state Supreme Court agreed with Workman’s position and halted her impeachment trial, as well as the trials for Loughry and Davis. Beth Walker, the current chief justice of the court, was acquitted of her lone article of impeachment by the Senate before the state Supreme Court had ruled on Workman’s impeachment trial.
The House filed its certiorari appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court in December, followed by the Senate in March at the end of the 2019 legislative session. Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said lawmakers would look at ways to protect the legislative branch’s impeachment power.
“Although we are deeply disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear our appeal, we always knew it was a long shot due to the Supreme Court taking up so few cases per year,” Carmichael said. “Though we will not get our day before the nation’s highest court, we will continue to look for ways to right the wrong we believe the appointed state Supreme Court committed during the impeachment process.”
The Legislature was represented by Mark Carter. Workman was represented by Marc Williams. Workman, who has yet to file precandidacy paperwork to run for re-election to a third 12-year term, said she is ready to move on from impeachment.
“In my almost 30 years as a judge and justice, I have always been committed to serving while upholding the highest ethical standards,” Workman said. “I plan to complete the term to which the people of West Virginia elected me in the same manner that I have during all my years of judicial service – with fairness and integrity while upholding the rule of law.”
Former justice Menis Ketchum, who resigned before the impeachment investigation, later agreed to plead guilty to a federal charge of wire fraud. Former Justice Robin Davis resigned Aug. 14, 2018, after she was impeached and later filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Legislature and Gov. Jim Justice, which she later dropped.
Allen Loughry resigned from the court in November 2018 after being convicted of 11 federal crimes, including for wire fraud and lying to federal investigators. It was extravagant spending by Loughry on renovations to his office, his use of a court-owned vehicle for personal trips, and his taking of state computer equipment and office furnishings for his own home that prompted the impeachment investigation of the entire court.
A statement from House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, was unavailable.