Updated: August 10, 2018 at 12:10 p.m.
A Cabell County circuit judge has been appointed to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals during the suspension of Justice Allen Loughry. The appointment comes as four justices on the state’s high court may be impeached.
In the wake of the House Judiciary Committee adopting 14 articles of impeachment this week against all of the remaining state supreme court justices, Chief Justice Margaret Workman appointed Sixth Circuit Judge Paul Farrell to the court.
In an administrative order issued Thursday, Workman cited Loughry’s suspension and the retirement of former Justice Menis Ketchum as need for Farrell’s temporary assistance.
"Court employees have received many inquiries about whether the work of the court will continue as scheduled in the term that begins Sept. 5," Workman said in news release announcing Farrell’s appointment. "It will. The court calendar is set, and the docket will proceed as usual. Supreme Court Justices are Constitutionally required to keep the court open and will continue to fulfill their Constitutional duties."
Farrell was sworn in Friday morning by Justice Robin Davis.
According to the order announcing his appointment, Farrell would become acting chief jusice and be the presiding officer of the Senate should impeachment articles be adopted by the House and a trial be necessary. The state constitution says that the chief justice of the Supreme Court presides over the Senate during a trial following impeachment in the House.
Justice Beth Walker issued a split opinion on Farrell’s appointment. She agreed that Farrell is a qualified choice, but took issue with the appointment considering the circumstances of looming impeachments.
“I agree with the Chief Justice’s selection of Judge Paul T. Farrell, a distinguished jurist with an exemplary record of service to his community and state, to serve as Justice during the suspension of Justice Allen Loughry,” Walker wrote. “However, I believe it is improper to designate any justice as Acting Chief Justice for impeachment proceedings in which I or my colleagues may have an interest and that have not yet commenced in the Senate.”
Justice Davis also issued a response to Workman’s appointment of Farrell -- but agreed with the decision. She cited various sections of the state constitution.
“Because all three sitting Justices of this Court are disqualified from presiding over any impeachment proceeding in the Senate in which Chief Justice Workman, Justice Walker and I may be the subject of the Articles of Impeachment, by the Rule of Necessity, the Chief Justice is constitutionally charged With appointing a Justice to preside. Any statement to the contrary is intellectually flawed and has no basis under our State Constitution,” Davis wrote.
The House of Delegates is scheduled to reconvene Monday to consider the articles of impeachment adopted by the Judiciary Committee.