Updated: July 11, 2018 at 4:44 p.m.
Just one day ahead of scheduled meetings on potential impeachment of one or more West Virginia Supreme Court justices, Justice Menis Ketchum has resigned.
Gov. Jim Justice said he received a resignation letter Wednesday from Ketchum indicating that he would be retiring from the state’s highest court. Ketchum was elected in 2008 -- as a Democrat -- to a 12-year seat on the bench. In 2015, state law was changed to make the election of West Virginia Supreme Court justices non-partisan.
“I have decided to retire and relinquish my office as a Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. My retirement is effective at the close of the business day on Friday, July 27,” Justice Ketchum wrote in a two‐sentence, handwritten letter that was faxed to Gov. Justice.
Gov. Justice said in a written statement issued Wednesday that he has directed his general counsel Brian Abraham to provide the necessary documentation to the Judicial Vacancy Commission and other state agencies to fill the vacancy being left on the bench.
In a news release from the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, other sitting justices spoke highly of Ketchum and his work on the state's high court.
“Justice Ketchum has brought a great work ethic and strong intellect to his work on the Court, as well as fairness and compassion for people whose cases we hear. He will be missed both personally and professionally,” Chief Justice Margaret Workman said.
“I will miss Justice Ketchum’s wit, insight, and diligence,” Justice Robin Davis said. “He worked long hours serving this Court and this state and did so with a true desire to serve the public. It is unfortunate.”
“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Justice Ketchum, who always took the time to mentor me as a new Justice," Justice Beth Walker said. "He set a great example with his commitment to fairness and the rule of law. I will miss him.”
The release also states that Ketchum would not provide futher comment. A statement from Justice Allen Loughry was not included. Loughry is currently suspended without pay -- following a statement of charges from the state's Judicial Investigations Commission.
Ketchum’s resignation comes as the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to continue its investigation Thursday on the potential impeachments of one or more Supreme Court justices. Much of that focus has centered around Loughry.
Loughry has been indicted on federal charges, 22 counts that include fraud, witness tampering and making false statements. The charges stem from the misuse of state resources, including vehicles, computers and furniture. He pleaded not guilty last month to the federal charges.
Ketchum also found himself under scrutiny for the private use of a state vehicle. An audit showed he failed to report the use of the vehicle on personal income taxes. Ketchum, though, did repay the state more than $1,500 for incorrect travel expenses.
Gov. Justice will appoint a temporary replacement for Ketchum. However, with Ketchum’s seat on the bench becoming vacant more than 84 days before the November election, a special election will take place -- per state code -- for another justice to finish out his term through 2020.