September 3 -- Short Term Health Plans
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West Virginia’s House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment for all four sitting justices on the state’s Supreme Court of Appeals: Chief Justice Margaret Workman, Justice Allen Loughry, Justice Robin Davis and Justice Elizabeth Walker. The court’s fifth member, Justice Menis Ketchum, abruptly retired last month before the impeachment proceedings began.
According to the articles of impeachment adopted by the House panel, the justices’ offenses include “maladministration, corruption, incompetency, neglect of duty, and certain high crimes and misdemeanors,” with the most serious charges leveled against Justice Loughry, who was indicted by a grand jury in June on several charges, including fraud and witness tampering.
“This is truly a sad day for West Virginia, but it is an important step forward if we are going to restore the public's confidence in the judiciary,” said Del. John Shott (R), chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
If the articles of impeachment are approved by the full House, the Senate will hold a trial to decide whether or not to impeach the justices. The deadline for scheduling a special election for November, however, is Aug. 14, so any openings created by the impeachment proceedings will likely be filled, until the next election in two years, by Gov. Jim Justice (R). (A special election will be held in the fall to replace Ketchum because he retired before the Aug. 14 deadline.)
Del. Barbara Evans Fleischauer (D), the Judiciary Committee’s minority chair, said she thought the charges against Loughry were serious but those against the other three justices didn’t warrant impeachment. And she charged that the impeachment proceedings were a scheme to stack the court with conservative justices.
“It’s a coup,” she said. “They dragged this out all summer long, and suddenly they put this on the agenda.”
Although Supreme Court elections in West Virginia have been nonpartisan since 2015, all four of the justices facing impeachment either ran for or were elected to the court before that change, two as Democrats and two as Republicans. Ketchum was also elected as a Democrat, giving the court a 3-2 Democratic majority before the impeachment proceedings began.
But Shott dismissed Fleishchauer’s charge as election-year politics.
“Especially in an election year, there’s going to be people who will spin it however it creates the most advantage to them,” he said. “That’s just part of the process.” (NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, CHARLESTON GAZETTE-MAIL)