In a historic 14 hour floor session, the West Virginia House of Delegates yesterday voted to impeach all four remaining Justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court on 11 various Articles of Impeachment, covering allegations including wasteful spending, maladministration, incompetency, neglect of duty, and the improper payment of senior status Judges.
Following this impeachment action by the House, Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis today announced her immediate retirement from the Supreme Court. Davis was the subject of several of the Articles of Impeachment approved yesterday by the House of Delegates. Davis has served as a Supreme Court Justice for 22 years. Her resignation means that the unexpired remainder of Davis’s term (six years remaining until 2024) will now appear on the ballot later this year in November 2018. This development also means that there will now be two (2) Supreme Court seats on the ballot this November — the unexpired two-year remainder of Justice Menis Ketchum’s term, as well as the remainder of Justice Davis’ term.
Justice Davis’ retirement today effectively negates any further impeachment proceedings against her. Because the ultimate remedy of any legislative impeachment is removal from office, Davis’ retirement effectively eliminates that sanction.
The House also voted yesterday to approve House Resolution 203, which formally censured and publicly reprimanded all of the Justices for their pattern of wasteful spending, misconduct and neglect of duty.
A group of five Delegates, to be named in the coming days, will now present the Articles of Impeachment to the state Senate, where Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justices Allen Loughry and Elizabeth Walker will each stand trial on the allegations contained in the Articles.
The Articles of Impeachment contain accusations ranging from the creation of a system to pay retired senior status Judges more than state statute allows, wasteful spending of taxpayer funds on unnecessary office renovations, the improper use of public vehicles and computers for personal gain, the illegal removal of historic property from the state Capitol, and the neglect of duty in failing to create Court administrative policies to prevent the improper use of state resources and property.
While some of the Articles of Impeachment against Justice Loughry were approved unanimously, several of the other Articles were approved by much narrower margins. Article Fourteen, which alleges that all four Justices are guilty of maladministration for their failure to adopt Court spending and travel policies, was narrowly approved on a 51-44 vote.
We note that the State Senate did pass legislation during the recent 2018 Regular Session which attempted to address the issue of per diem payments to retired senior status Judges (SB 632), but that legislation died in the House of Delegates.
While the Justices have now been impeached by a majority of the House of Delegates, the state Constitution requires a two-thirds vote in the state Senate to remove any of the Justices from office. The schedule and rules of procedure for any trial will be determined by the state Senate in the near future.