Four West Virginia Supreme Court justices were impeached this week after a probe into their excessive spending on office renovations.
The West Virginia House of Delegates approved 11 of 14 articles of impeachment total on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, sending the suspended justices — Allen Loughry, Margaret Workman, Robin Davis and Elizabeth Walker — to trial in the West Virginia Senate.
The charges were related to the justices allegedly abusing public vehicles and credit cards and spending millions to renovate their chambers. The justices also overpaid senior status judges and failed to properly carry out their administrative duties, the articles of impeachment allege.
West Virginia justices typically serve 12-year terms, but they can be impeached for “maladministration, corruption, incompetency, gross immorality, neglect of duty, or any high crime or misdemeanor,” according to West Virginia’s constitution. A conviction must be supported by at least two-thirds of the state Senate members.
The chief justice is supposed to preside over impeachment hearings, but since Workman had held that position and will be on trial, Cabell County Circuit Court Judge Paul T. Farrell was sworn in as acting chief justice last week.
The fifth member of the court, Justice Menis Ketchum, resigned in July and agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud. A special election will be held to replace him.
Here’s a breakdown of the remaining four justices’ alleged misbehavior.
The state House impeached Loughry for his $363,000 office renovation expenditures, including a $31,924 sofa. He also removed a historic “Cass Gilbert” executive desk from the state Capitol and took it to his home, according to the articles of impeachment.
Loughry faced eight impeachment articles, which claim he abused government vehicles, laptops and funds for private gain. He also allegedly lied to the House Finance Committee while under oath and unlawfully signed off on excessive salaries for senior status judges.
An article of impeachment about Loughry using state funds to frame personal items was withdrawn.
Workman was impeached for approving the overpayment of senior status judges when she was chief justice, a violation of state law.
The state House voted to reject an article of impeachment on Workman’s renovation expenditures. She spent about $111,000 to update her chambers.
Robin Jean Davis
Davis, seemingly the most lavish spender among her colleagues, was impeached for shelling out more than $500,000 on office renovations. She spent more than $23,000 on design services and purchased an oval rug that cost about $20,500, according to the impeachment articles.
Davis, who served as chief justice for six years, allegedly also approved overpayment for senior status judges during her tenure.
She announced her retirement ― effective Monday ― on Tuesday, which removed her from impeachment proceedings. Davis said she wanted to allow the public to decide her replacement. She also accused the Republican-controlled state House of impeaching her based on her political affiliation.
Tuesday is the deadline to trigger a special election to replace any vacant spots on the court. Otherwise, it is up to the governor to appoint.
Walker was the subject of two articles of impeachment, but the delegates approved only one. She reportedly spent about $131,000 on renovations, including $27,000 on “office furnishings and wallpaper,” which the state House deemed reasonable in comparison to her colleagues and not worthy of impeachment.
However, Walker was impeached for a lack of oversight of the entire court.
One delegate proposed an additional article of impeachment to censure Walker for hiring outside counsel to write a court opinion for $10,000. The article was rejected.
This article has been updated with Davis’ retirement.