Agreements to Censure, Motions to Dismiss Rejected: All 4 Impeached W.Va. Justices Will Stand Trial

Sep 11, 2018


Updated: Sept. 11, 2018 at 3:55 p.m.

Pre-trial impeachment proceedings in the West Virginia Senate kicked off Tuesday with a roller coaster that still leaves all four impeached justices standing trial.

An offer to publicly reprimand Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justice Beth Walker was ruled out of order. Additionally, a motion to dismiss articles of impeachment against now-retired Justice Robin Davis was rejected by the Senate.

The House of Delegates’ Board of Managers -- a group of delegates functioning as prosecutors -- had offered an agreement to Workman and Walker to accept responsibility for lavish court spending, acknowledge the need for updated policies and implement reforms.

Chief Justice Workman was named in Articles IV and VI of the articles of impeachment, which allege overpayment of senior status judges. Chief Justice Workman and Justice Walker were named in Article XIV, which alleges that the Justices of the Supreme Court of Appeals generally and collectively failed to provide administrative oversight of the court.

House Judiciary Chairman and impeachment manager John Shott, a Republican, introduced the proposed agreement by saying that the board of managers believed the censure -- in lieu of making Workman and Walker stand trial and risk removal from office -- “was a fair settlement.”

"We have reached an agreement which we think will address the goals that the House laid out when we undertook this process. Basically, those goals -- as I indicated: accountability, but a foundation to rebuild public trust in the judiciary," Shott said.

 

Del. Andrew Byrd, a Democrat on the board of managers, read the proposed agreement.

Workman and Walker agreed to the terms of the censure agreement, but it was ultimately ruled out of order.

Ben Bailey, of Bailey & Glasser, addressed the Senate, and iterated Workman’s agreement to the terms of the censure.

“Most of what the House sought to achieve, when it started down this road, has been achieved," Bailey said.

One of Walker’s attorneys, Mike Hissam -- of Hissam, Forman, Donovan & Richie -- delivered similar sentiments on behalf of his client.

"We are convinced certain that the members of this court would see that Justice Walker -- at the end of that trial -- did not commit any offense that would merit her removal from office under the West Virginia constitution," Hissam said. "Nevertheless, Justice Walker has acknowledged responsibility for the court spending, including on the justice's personal offices."

Both attorneys stated their clients would mount a defense to the articles of impeachment should the Senate not agree to the censure resolution. In the end, they will.

After returning to the chamber following a more than three hour recess, Majority Leader Ryan Ferns called a point of order on Senate Resolution 204, which proposed the censure of Workman and Walker. Senators from both parties huddled around the President’s podium for a few moments before Senate President Mitch Carmichael ruled the resolution out of order -- leaving Workman and Walker forced to stand trial.

Walker’s trial is set to begin Oct. 1, while Workman’s trial will begin Oct. 15.

A motion to dismiss articles of impeachment against former Justice Robin Davis, who retired one day after being named in the adopted articles of impeachment, also failed.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump moved to dismiss the articles against Davis, which targeted her for her role in the overpayment of senior status judges, lavish spending on renovations to her court offices and a lack of administrative oversight of the judicial branch.

With some senators challenging the possibility of Davis still being eligible to be deemed a senior status judge at the discretion of a future Supreme Court and others saying they had yet to hear the evidence, the motion to dismiss charges against her failed on a 15-19 vote -- remarkably not at all decided by party.

Davis’ trial is set for Oct. 29.

Suspended Justice Allen Loughry was charged in impeachment articles for using state resources -- including vehicles, furniture and computers -- for private gain, lavish spending on office renovations, the overpayment of senior status judges and failing to provide administrative oversight of the court. He has also pleaded not guilty to 25 counts of federal charges, including fraud, witness tampering, making false statements and obstruction.

His trial is set for Nov. 12, after his criminal trial is set to begin on Oct. 2.

A fifth justice, Menis Ketchum, retired one day before an investigation into impeachment of the court began and was subsequently not named in any of the adopted articles. He has pleaded guilty to one federal charge of fraud.

The Senate has recessed until Oct. 1, when Walker’s impeachment trial will begin.