In a span of less than 14 hours on Monday, the West Virginia House of Representatives impeached all four of the justices on the state’s Supreme Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state.
Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justices Robin Davis, Beth Walker, and Allen Loughry were all impeached on Monday for a “lack of administrative oversight over the court,” according to West Virginia Public Broadcasting. In addition, Loughry, Davis, and Workman were impeached for allegedly breaking state law in overpaying senior circuit judges during fill-in stints, The Dominion Post reported. And finally, Davis and Loughry were also impeached for spending a Pruitt-esque amount of money on renovations; according to HuffPost, Loughry was impeached for spending $363,000 on office renovations, which included a sofa that cost over $30,000, and Davis spent over half a million on her own office, which included a $20,500 oval rug.
The fifth seat on the Supreme Court was vacant because former Justice Menis Ketchum resigned before pleading guilty to wire fraud last month. (A special election to replace him will be held in November.)
The four justices will now head to trial in West Virginia’s Senate. The chief justice normally would be the one presiding over impeachment proceedings, but because Workman is being tried for impeachment herself, HuffPost reported that the presiding judge will be Paul Farrell, a lower court judge who was appointed to replace Loughry after he was suspended without pay.
Workman and Davis are both Democrats, Loughry is a Republican, and Walker is a Republican but sits on the Supreme Court officially as a nonpartisan judge due to a 2015 change to state law. Loughry in particular has even bigger problems than his fellow justices. In June, he was indicted by a federal grand jury on 22 counts including fraud and witness tampering. (He was charged with an additional count in July.)
A state constitutional amendment which is on the ballot in November would hand oversight of the state judiciary’s budget to the legislature. Last November, a former administrative director of the Supreme Court wrote in the Charleston Gazette-Mail that West Virginia is the only state where the highest court in the state has autonomy over the judiciary’s budget. (Seems like that’s maybe not such a bad thing, considering how Republicans in states like North Carolina and Pennsylvania have tried to weaponize the legislative branch against the courts after judges make decisions they don’t like.)
This is not the first time, however, that members of West Virginia’s top court have faced charges of abusing their office. In 2008, a scandal erupted when photographs were released in a court motion showing then-Chief Justice Elliot “Spike” Maynard vacationing with Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship in 2006—yes, that Don Blankenship—before Maynard voted in November 2007 to reverse a $76 million judgment against Massey. Maynard lost his primary later that year and died in 2014.