West Virginia’s House Judiciary Committee approved 14 articles of impeachment against the four remaining justices of their Supreme Court of Appeals.The fifth already stepped down in disgrace prior to the start of proceedings.
Delegates of West Virginia’s House Judiciary Committee took a stunningly drastic step on Tuesday, approving articles of impeachment against every single remaining justice on the state Supreme Court of Appeals, the Hill and other outlets are reporting. Justice Menis Ketchum resigned his job last month and subsequently pleaded guilty on a federal charge of wire fraud.
“I think the overwhelming evidence we saw was there was an atmosphere of entitlement and cavalier disregard for the expenditure of taxpayer money. It’s unfortunate the entire court seems to be infected by that atmosphere.”
We felt like we had no choice but to recommend the impeachment for each justice,” the committee’s chairman John Shott (R-Mercer) laments.
Shott was “flabbergasted.” It’s “absolutely incredible” to him, “and just basically reinforces the perception that the court feels they’re not a co-equal branch; they’re a superior branch and not subject to the same rules the rest of us are.”
The proceedings are “making West Virginia political history,” notes Dominion Post. “It’s really a sad day for the state, and nobody should be celebrating,” reminds Shott.
One justice is in especially hot water. Eight of the fourteen impeachment articles were directed at Justice Allen Loughry, who separately faces a 23-count federal indictment.
Loughry’s wasn’t a federal case until he turned it into one as reported by Conservative Daily Post. That’s when West Virginia’s taxpayers learned that Loughry’s fellow justices seemed just as corrupt.
To draw attention away from himself when his office renovation came under fire, Loughry approached the FBI “to report his own concerns about spending by other justices of the Supreme Court.” As he went down, he dragged the rest with him.
Loughry spent $363,013.43 to refurbish his office but Justice Robin Davis had him beat. Her remodeling job cost $500,278.23. Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justice Beth Walker weren’t much better, laying out $111,035.19 and $130,654.55, respectively.
That’s when the FBI discovered Loughry was “using a government vehicle and credit card on personal trips.” He also submitted “mileage claims for reimbursement for a government vehicle he used.”
According to FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Nick Boshears, “Public corruption is a top investigative priority. It erodes public confidence and undermines the rule of law.”
The Gazette-Mail reports the judge was charged with “mail fraud, wire fraud, making false statements to a federal agent multiple times, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering.” He goes to trial in October.
As Conservative Daily Post reported recently, Loughry’s arrest was a “huge development.” Tuesday’s mass impeachment vote is historically earthshaking.
Lawmakers charged each of the leaders of the state’s judicial branch with separate violations, all of them serious.
A total of 14 articles were divided among four individual judges for things like, “unnecessary and lavish spending of taxpayer dollars, maladministration, corruption, and neglect of duty,” the Charleston Gazette-Mail notes.
Schools in the state suffered and tightened their belts while it is alleged the justices “used state resources and money to line their pockets and fund their lifestyles,” the local paper also reported.
Next, the impeachment articles go to a full session of the state House, then they need a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate before the impeachment trials begin, also in the Senate.
All four of the justices named for impeachment have at least two remaining years on their terms. If convicted, they will be barred from public office in the state.
If the justices are eventually removed from the bench, Governor Jim Justice would make temporary appointments. The Gazette-Mail relates that “a special election to replace them would take place May 2020.”
During a press conference, Justice admitted the scandal is “a black eye that we don’t need. I’m sure we’ll work our way through it.”
In addition to the charges of lavishly spending taxpayer money to refurbish their offices, the justices allegedly “signed off on a policy to circumvent state law by paying senior status judges as contractors” which let them get around salary limits imposed by the state legislature.
Loughry was the one to start the fight when he had an antique desk moved from the state’s property warehouse to his home office.
He meant to keep it, but when one of the other justices wanted it for herself, he decided to have the movers pick it back up, again at taxpayer expense, several outlets are reporting.
Justice Loughry also hypocritically and illegally billed taxpayers for a trip to the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs. He was scheduled “to sign copies of his book ‘Don’t Buy Another Vote, I Won’t Pay for a Landslide’ about West Virginia’s history of political corruption.”
The decision to impeach everyone was not one to be made lightly and it wasn’t unanimous. “If we’re talking about overturning the entire court, that’s monumental,” Delegate Barbara Fleischauer (D-Monongalia County), who is the ranking democrat on the committee, observes.
“It’s a huge thing to say the legislature feels we can cause a change in the court that will result in all four members… being chosen by the governor instead of by the people. I just can’t go that far.”
Amy Summers (R-Taylor) disagrees. “I do think the evidence is there, and I think my constituents have reached out to me with enough outrage, especially once the pictures came out and they saw the lavish spending and all the struggles we’ve been through the last few years as a state, trying to fund corrections, trying to give the teachers a pay raise.”
Taxpayers, Summers insists, see that as “a slap in their face.” Also, she says, “it shows very poor judgment.”