All four justices on the West Virginia Supreme Court were impeached on Monday, after state lawmakers voted against them based on allegations of improper spending. Justices Allen Loughry, Beth Walker, Robin Davis, and Chief Justice Margaret Workman are accused of using state money for personal use. Tuesday morning, Davis announced her retirement in a blistering rebuke of the State House that impeached her and her colleagues.
One of the several articles of impeachment alleges that all four justices let spending get out of hand, from working lunches, to personal use of government-owned computers and cars, to more tan $1 million in personal office renovations. Loughry was previously indicted in June for alleged misuse of government credit cards and bringing an antique desk to his house for use in a home office. Loughry, who ironically has authored a book about political corruption, was also accused of lying to cover up his alleged acts. Loughry was suspended earlier this year.
Loughry, Workman, and Davis were also accused of allowing senior judges to be paid more than was allowed by state law.
Davis delivered a scathing address Tuesday morning, when she announced her retirement.
“What we are witnessing is a disaster,” Davis said. “For the rule of law, the foundation of our state, and indeed our own society. For when a legislative body attempts to dismantle a separate branch of government, the immediate effects, as well as the precedent it sets for the future can only be deemed disastrous.”
Another justice, Menis Ketchum, already retired and agreed to to a guilty plea based on allegations of wire fraud based on use of government-owned vehicles. An election is scheduled for November to replace Ketchum and Davis.
Should any of the other justices be removed from office following their trial before the State Senate, Gov. Jim Justice will name their replacement. Replacements do not have to be from the same party, and some state Democrats are concerned by what could happen to the court as a result.
Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer said that Democrats agreed with the impeachment of Loughry, but that when it comes to the others, it “was a takeover of the court and using the impeachment process to take over another branch of government.”
John Shott, the Republican chair of the House Judiciary Committee that drew up articles of impeachment, defended the moves, saying trust in the court had suffered, and that “we need to take action to try to rebuild that trust.”
Note: This article has been updated to reflect Davis’ announcement.
[Images via West Virginia Supreme Court]