West Virginia is the butt of a lot of jokes, some of them undeserved, but there is something happening there right now that could be a useful lesson for the GOP caucus in Congress. The West Virginia legislature has forced one member of the West Virginia Supreme Court from the bench and seems poised to send the rest packing.
The West Virginia House of Delegates Judiciary Committee has drafted 14 articles of impeachment against the four sitting justices on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
Each justice is charged with “unnecessary and lavish” spending of state dollars to renovate their offices in the East Wing of the Capitol.
Loughry faces additional charges related to his use of state vehicles for personal travel, having state furniture and computers in his home, and for handing down an administrative order authorizing payments of senior status judges in excess of what is allowable in state law.
Davis and Workman are charged with actually signing documents authorizing that senior status judges be paid in excess of what’s allowable in state law.
Additionally, Beth Walker is charged with unnecessarily allowing the state to pay $10,000 to a contractor to write an opinion in a case in 2017. Current Supreme Court Interim Administrator Barbara Allen, who was not an employee of the court at the time, authored the opinion.
Workman also is charged with facilitating the employment of an unnecessary employee to do I.T. work for the court in 2014. That employee worked on Workman’s campaign prior to working for the court.
The committee met in executive session for about five hours Monday night, when the articles were drafted.
Former Justice Menis Ketchum was not subject to any of the articles of impeachment. Ketchum’s resignation last month meant he couldn’t be subject to impeachment under the procedures established by the House Judiciary Committee.
Ketchum has agreed to plead guilty to one criminal count of federal wire fraud, according to an agreement announced by U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart last week.
Loughry is the subject of a 23-count federal indictment charging him with 16 counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud, three counts of making false statements to a federal agent, one count of obstruction of justice and one count of witness tampering.
On June 6, the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission charged Loughry with 32 counts of violating the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct by misusing the state-owned cars, computers and furniture and lying to lawmakers, the public and the media about it.
Missing from this article is any mention of the $4,000,000 spent on building renovations and lavish office furnishings such as a $32,000 blue suede couch. Blue suede couch, I sh** you not.
Though most of this derives from garden variety graft and corruption, it is significant that the legislature pulled on its big-boy pants and did what the state Constitution requires them to do without waiting on law enforcement to indict some of these people and force them from the bench that way. I doubt that the US Congress, faced with the same situation, could sack up and do this.
I think it is a mark of shame on the US Congress that it doesn’t use impeachment more often. Too often the talk gets bogged down on what exactly are “high crimes and misdemeanors.” As impeachment is a political and not a judicial act, wearing white shoes after Labor Day is an impeachable offense if a majority of the House of Representatives says it is. Eric Holder and Susan Rice should have been impeached in the last administration. In the current one, Rod Rosenstein needs to be impeached. The House fixating on what the Senate might do misses the point. A viable threat of impeachment and the possibility of having to face a trial in he Senate would have a moderating influence on a lot of bad actors. And, even absent trial and conviction, the impeached official would have their ability to functioned sufficiently damaged that they would probably either resign or be fired. In the case of federal judges, we lose sight of the fact that they only “shall hold their offices during good behaviour.” That “good behaviour” is something the House has the right to decide. A district court judge or appellate judge who is regularly reversed should be assumed to not be exhibiting “good behaviour.” In fact, I think the nation would be well served if Congress took a page from some high pressure companies and every year rank-ordered judges from top to bottom and impeached the lowest ten percent.