West Virginia votes to impeach state Supreme Court justices

Composite image of Justices Loughry, Walker, WorkmanImage copyright
West Virginia Judiciary

Image caption

The three justices facing a Senate trial are: Allen Loughry (left), Elizabeth Walker (centre) and Margaret Workman (right)

Lawmakers in West Virginia have voted to impeach all four justices on the state’s Supreme Court for failing to carry out their duties.

Three justices now face an impeachment trial in the Senate while a fourth announced her retirement on Tuesday.

A fifth justice resigned from the top court in July.

The judges are accused of spending hundreds of thousands of state dollars in office renovations, using state cars for personal use and overpaying judges.

Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justices Allen Loughry, Robin Davis, and Elizabeth Walker were impeached by the West Virginia House of Delegates on Monday.

Justices Workman, Loughry and Walker will face the West Virginia Senate for impeachment trials.

Justice Davis announced her retirement hours after her impeachment.

A fifth justice, Menis Ketchum, retired last month, but has agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud over using state-owned cars and fuel cards for personal use.

The House impeached Justice Loughry on Monday for spending more than $363,000 (£285,000) in office renovations – including for inlaying a map of the state in the floor of his office – and lying to the House Finance Committee about how involved he was in the costly renovation process.

He is accused of moving a $42,000 desk and a $32,000 suede couch from the Supreme Court offices to his home, as well as misusing a state-owned vehicle, according to the impeachment documents.

Justice Loughry was indicted earlier on fraud and other charges.

Justice Davis was impeached for spending over $500,000 in renovations.

Justices Walker and Workman were cleared on reports of extravagant spending as they spent less than their fellow justices ($131,000 and $111,000, respectively).

Local media first reported the lavish spending last year.

But the justices all face neglect of duty charges, according to the impeachment articles.

Media captionImpeachment, what’s that?

Justices Workman, Loughry, and Davis are also accused of overpaying retired, senior judges.

“This is truly a sad day for West Virginia, but it is an important step forward if we are going to restore the public’s confidence in the judiciary,” state Congressman John Shot said in a statement earlier this month.

“After reviewing all the evidence available to us, it became clear that a culture of entitlement and disregard for both the law and taxpayer funds have damaged the reputation of our judicial system – and that all justices had a part in violating the public’s trust.”

Under US law, impeachment begins in the House, but the Senate will act as jurors to determine whether the accused should be removed from office.

If the justices are all removed from office, the state’s governor, Republican Jim Justice, may end up appointing new justices.

In West Virginia, Supreme Court justices serve 12-year terms.

West Virginia votes to impeach state Supreme Court justices

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