West Virginia Lawmakers Move to Impeach Every Single Justice on State Supreme Court
On Tuesday night, the West Virginia House of Delegates Judiciary Committee took a stunningly drastic measure. Lawmakers on the committee approved articles of impeachment against every single sitting justice on the state Supreme Court of Appeals.
In total, there are 14 articles of impeachment: two against Justice Beth Walker, four each against Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justice Robin Davis, and eight against Justice Allen Loughry. The charges, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, include "maladministration, corruption, incompetency, neglect of duty and certain high crimes."
The charges stem from a series of allegations that the justices have abused their power to spend state taxpayer funds lavishly on themselves. Alone among states, West Virginia's Supreme Court has total power to set its own budget, a power the justices allegedly exploited with total abandon.
The justices apparently spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on office furniture and luxury renovations. The total tab for Davis's office renovations was over $500,000, with $28,000 alone being spent on rugs.
Loughry, in particular, is further accused of improperly using state vehicles for personal travel to American University and the Pound Civil Justice Institute, then turning around and seeking travel reimbursement from those institutions even though he already put the costs on state accounts. He is also accused of moving priceless, historic state office furniture to his home for personal use, and enlisting a state-contracted moving company to do it. Perhaps most amazingly, he even improperly billed the state for a book-signing tour of his nonfiction book about political corruption in West Virginia.
In addition to facing impeachment, Loughry is currently suspended without pay from the bench and faces over a dozen federal charges of fraud, witness tampering, and lying to investigators, according to the Gazette-Mail.
West Virginia's high court has five seats, one of which was already vacated by the resignation of Justice Menis Ketchum, who was also implicated in the scandal. Davis and Workman are Democrats, Loughry is a Republican, and Walker is Republican-leaning but officially nonpartisan, as the first justice to be elected following the legislature's abolition of partisan judicial races in 2015.
If every justice is successfully removed from office, GOP Gov. Jim Justice will have the authority to appoint an entire new interim bench from candidates approved by the state Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission.