The West Virginia House of Delegates on Monday voted to impeach all four remaining state Supreme Court justices amid a wave of scandals involving excessive spending on office expenditures. Lawmakers accused the justices of “unnecessary and lavish spending” on more than $1 million in office renovations and overpaying lower-court judges.
All four justices were elected by the people of West Virginia in non-partisan elections. Thanks to delays by the Republican-dominated House Intelligence Committee, however, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice (R) will have the opportunity to appoint new justices of his choosing, regardless of which party the previous justices belonged to.
Democrats in the House had tried to get impeachment proceedings rolling before Tuesday’s deadline for scheduling a special election to replace the justices, but Republicans delayed until it was too late, handing the governor the power to appoint whomever he chooses.
That means West Virginia is likely going to have a unilaterally right-wing Supreme Court. Justice was backed by President Donald Trump during his 2016 gubernatorial bid.
Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, a Democrat, said her party agreed to impeachment proceedings against Loughry but that impeaching the entire court “was a power grab, was a takeover of the court and using the impeachment process to take over another branch of government.”
A fifth justice, Democrat Menis Ketchum, resigned last month before pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud.
Justice Allen Loughry was previously impeached in June following a 23-count indictment that included charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, lying to federal investigators, obstruction of justice and witness tampering. Loughry was impeached on eight counts and faces a Senate trial on October 2.
Justice Robin Davis, a Democrat, resigned on Tuesday and said the impeachment proceedings amounted to a power grab by Republicans that goes against the “will of the people.”
“What we are witnessing is a disaster for the rule of law,” Davis said. She is accused of spending $500,000 to renovate her government office.
The remaining Republican justices, Beth Walker and chief justice Margaret Workman, stand accused of spending more than $100,000 on office renovations – each.
Republican Delegate John Shott, who represents Mercer County and chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said the articles of impeachment are about protecting the public’s trust in the High Court. “We need to take action to try to rebuild that trust,” Shott said.