Lawsuit Challenges Special Election Campaign, Appointments to West Virginia Supreme Court

Sep 13, 2018

A candidate for the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has filed suit to remove another candidate from the ballot and seeks to prohibit the recent temporary appointments of two justices to the bench of the state’s high court.

Charleston attorney William Schwartz has filed a writ of mandamus and a writ of prohibition with the West Virginia Supreme Court to have Congressman Evan Jenkins' name removed from the November ballot in his bid for a seat on the bench and stop his appointment. The filing also argues that former House Speaker Tim Armstead’s appointment is unconstitutional.

The suit follows Jenkins’ and Armstead’s appointment to the court by Gov. Jim Justice last month. The two high-profile Republicans were appointed to temporarily sit on the bench after Justices Menis Ketchum and Robin Davis, both elected to the court as Democrats, resigned.

Both justices quit in the wake of a nearly year-long scandal surrounding the court that continues with looming impeachment trials. The remainder of those respective terms will be filled by a special election in November.

Schwartz, citing the state constitution, argues Jenkins is ineligible to be appointed or elected. West Virginia law states that a person must be permitted to practice law for ten years prior to being elected. Jenkins' law license was inactive from 2014 until last month.

Armstead’s appointment is challenged because Schwartz says the former House Speaker's vote on the impeachment resolution helped create vacancies on the court, which would put the appointment in violation of the state constitution's emoluments clause.