Hamilton casts votes in Supreme Court session

BUCKHANNON — The West Virginia House of Delegates voted to impeach the remaining West Virginia Supreme Court Justices this week following an all-day session Monday.

The House impeached suspended justice Allen Loughry — who faces a 23-count federal indictment — and also Chief Justice Margaret Workman, Justice Robin Davis and Justice Beth Walker.

Justice Menis Ketchum retired earlier avoiding the impeachment process but faces a single federal charge related to improper use of a vehicle.

Del. Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur, said Tuesday, he voted to impeach Loughrey, Workman and Davis because they violated a statute passed in 1991 that a senior status judge could not be paid more than a full-time judge.

“They violated the code,” he said. “The code was obeyed up until 2010 or 2011.I felt that was something they were guilty of — not following the law the legislature had passed in 1991.”

Much of the debate was centered on office renovations, which ranged from $100,000 to $500,000. Hamilton voted against the impeachment articles on those charges, saying that for better or worse, the West Virginia constitution gives the Supreme Court control of their budget.

“We are one of the only states that does not have any supervision over the Supreme Court’s budget,” Hamilton said.” When they give us their requests and we fund it, we can’t tell them how to spend their money. My feelings were, and a lot of others, all they were doing was following the code.

“You could call it stupidity or arrogance, spending money the way they do, but we had no right to go in and tell them how to spend their money.”

Hamilton said that may change in November with a constitutional amendment on the ballot.

Davis resigned Tuesday morning, beating a midnight deadline to allow the open seat to be on the November ballot. Otherwise, if a justice is removed, Governor Jim Justice will appoint a replacement.

While announcing her retirement, Davis blamed partisan politics, saying “majority members have ignored the will of the people who elected the justices of this court.”

Republicans have majority control in both the House and Senate, and Justice is also a Republican.

“They have erased the lines of separation between the branches of government,” Davis said. “In fact, the majority party in the legislature is positioning to impose their own party preferences. The will of the people is being denied. I just cannot allow the finalizing of their plot to come to fruition.”

The State Senate is responsible for actually removing the justices.

“If they are found guilty and impeached, then the governor would be appointing people to fill that seat until the election in 2020,” Hamilton said.

The Upshur County legislator did not vote to impeach Walker due to the fact she had only been in the office 18 or 19 months. Justices are elected to 12-year terms.

“I’m sure the pecking order overruled her thinking,” he said. “I didn’t think she was guilty of malfeasance.”

However, she was impeached by the full House.

Walker and Workman both said they will not resign.

“I am not resigning, either from the court or from my position as Chief Justice,” Workman said. “There is no basis for my impeachment, and I will continue to do the work, both administrative and judicial, that the people of West Virginia elected me to do.

“I want the citizens of our state to know that the Court will move forward. The cases set for the fall term, which opens Sept. 5, will be heard and decided as scheduled.”

Walker said, “I remain committed to my oath of office and to serving the citizens of this great state. My focus will be on earning their trust and confidence and restoring integrity to their Supreme Court.

“Even though I disagree with some of the decisions of the House of Delegates, I respect their important constitutional role in this process and I take full responsibility for my actions and decisions.”

The House of Delegates has adjourned and the State Senate may take up the impeachment as early as Thursday.


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