Settle Separation Of Powers Question

Most West Virginians probably would like to put last year’s state Supreme Court impeachment crisis behind us. But the episode left behind what could be a serious question in the future.

In brief — as you may recall, the high court fiasco was exceedingly complex — the question stems from a decision by the state Supreme Court itself. The ruling was rendered by five circuit court judges sitting temporarily at the state’s highest court.

In October, they ruled in a 3-2 decision that impeachment of Justice Elizabeth Walker was unconstitutional. It violated the separation of powers doctrine, the court contended.

We disagree, and so do many state legislators. Leaders in the House of Delegates now are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of impeaching a state Supreme Court justice.

Lawmakers have no intention of having Walker tried in the state Senate on impeachment charges, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, emphasizes. Good. That would accomplish nothing useful.

But settling the question of whether the Legislature has any power to deal with members of the judiciary who are accused of wrongdoing or less serious misbehavior is important. The U.S. Supreme Court should take the case.

Will the issue come up again? We hope not. But bear in mind that, sadly, that is not out of the question.


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