UPDATE: 9 people seeking seat on W.Va. Supreme Court

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - UPDATE: 8/15/18 2:30 P.M.

Nine people have applied so far to fill a vacancy on the West Virginia State Supreme Court created by the resignation and retirement of Menis Ketchum.

Ketchum retired in July amid a multi-pronged investigation of the state's five justices.

He faces a federal charge accusing him of using a state-owned vehicles for personal outings. The U.S. attorney's office says Ketchum will enter a guilty plea to one count of wire fraud.

According to a news release from Gov. Jim Justice's office, the list of those who've applied includes Republican West Virginia House Speaker Timothy Armstead of Charleston and Republican U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins of Huntington.

Jenkins' bid to retain his seat in Congress ended in May when he finished second in the state's Republican primary behind West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

Armstead announced in January that he would not seek re-election to the House and that he was considering running for a seat on the Supreme Court.

Other who have applied include: Robert H. Carlton of Williamson; Gregory B. Chiartas of Charleston; Robert J. Frank of Lewisburg; Arthur Wayne King of Clay; D.C. Offutt Jr., of Barboursville; William Schwartz of Charleston; and Martin P. Sheeha of Wheeling.

The Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission will conduct interviews on Aug. 23.

Applications are still being taken for anyone who wants to fill the seat of Robin Davis, who announced her retirement on Tuesday.

The West Virginia House of Delegates impeached Davis and Justices Allen Loughry, Margaret Workman and Beth Walker on Monday.

Workman, Walker and Loughry, who's suspended and facing nearly two dozen federal charges, all face a trial in the state senate to determine whether they will be removed from office.

Governor Jim Justice will choose replacements for Ketchum and Davis to fille the seat until a special election is held on Nov. 6, the same day as the General Election.


UPDATE: 8/14/18 10:15 A.M.

With her job on the line and impeachment a looming possibility, Justice Robin Davis announced her retirement Tuesday.

In a news conference, Davis said her retirement took effect on Monday, Aug. 13.

"I deliver this statement today in dismay, disbelief, and in sadness," Davis said. "I feel profound grief for the state of West Virginia given the current state of affairs. What we are witnessing is a disaster for the rule of law, the foundation of our state, and indeed our own society. For when a legislative body attempts to dismantle a separate branch of government, the immediate effects, as well as the precedent it sets for the future, can only be deemed disastrous."

Monday is the same day is when the West Virginia House of Delegates voted to impeach all four of the state's Supreme Court justices.

Justices Allen Loughry, Margaret Workman, Robin Davis and Beth Walker are accused of wasting millions of dollars in taxpayer money on "lavish" and "unnecessary" things like office renovations.

The remaining three justices will now go on trial before the state Senate.

"The will of the people of West Virginia is being denied."

At the news conference Tuesday, Davis said the House Judiciary Committee (the body that investigated the justices before turning it over to the full House) investigated without due process of law. Davis said the members "skipped from one subject to another intentionally" and that the majority members "ignored the will of the people who elected the justices of this court."

Davis took pride in her work, particularly the cases that she ruled on that were challenged at the United State Supreme Court of Appeals. The court has upheld all of Davis' opinions, she said.

"I have always put my faith in the people of the great state of West Virginia," Davis said. "The people of West Virginia have honored me on three separate occasions by electing me to be a justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. I have returned that faith by honorably serving the people of West Virginia for 22, almost 22, years."

"We judges weigh evidence as part of our jobs," Davis said. "Unfortunately, the evidence clearly shows that the preconceived, result-driven mania among the majority party members in the legislature cannot result in a just and fair outcome."


UPDATE: 8/14/18 10 A.M.

The West Virginia House of Delegates voted down a new article of impeachment sponsored by Delegate Folk, R-Berkeley with 26 in favor and 70 opposed.

The new article voted charged Justice Beth Walker with outsourcing an opinion from an outside counsel. The article also initially failed to pass in committee.

This was the 15th and final article of impeachment voted on by the House.


UPDATE 8/14/18 @ 12:32 a.m.

The West Virginia House of Delegates has impeached all four of the state's Supreme Court justices.

The Republican-led House on Monday night impeached Justice Beth Walker and the other justices for abusing their authority. The article says they failed to control office expenses and not maintaining policies over important matters such as working lunches, the use of state vehicles and office computers at home.

Walker was the last of the four justices to be impeached. She had avoided impeachment earlier when the House voted not to pass an article against her for $131,000 in renovations she made after taking office last year.

Suspended Justice Allen Loughry, Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justice Robin Davis also were impeached.

Loughry was suspended earlier this year and has pleaded not guilty to a 23-count federal indictment.



A West Virginia Supreme Court justice has avoided impeachment - for now.

The House of Delegates on Monday night cleared Justice Beth Walker of an impeachment article for spending $131,000 on renovations after taking office last year.

Walker still faces another article that accuses her and the three other justices of abusing their authority by failing to control office expenses and not maintaining policies over critical matters.

Some lawmakers said they didn't condone Walker's spending but said it paled in comparison to other justices.

Lawmakers then voted a short time later to withdraw an impeachment charge against Chief Justice Margaret Workman over $111,000 in renovations to her office.

Workman, suspended Justice Allen Loughry and Justice Robin Davis were impeached on other articles earlier.


An indicted West Virginia Supreme Court justice has been impeached on four more charges, bringing the number of charges to six that he could face at trial in the state Senate.

The House of Delegates on Monday night impeached Justice Allen Loughry on a charge of lying to the House Finance Committee about his involvement in lavish office renovations.

Lawmakers unanimously impeached him on charges of driving state vehicles for personal use and of using state-owned computers at his home.

Loughry, Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justice Robin Davis also were impeached for their roles in allowing senior status judges to be paid higher than allowed wages.

Another impeachment article was withdrawn dealing with an accusation Loughry used state money to frame personal items at his office.

Lawmakers had three impeachment articles left to consider. Justice Beth Walker is the only current justice who had not been impeached. Like the others, she faces allegations about spending on office renovations.


UPDATE 8/13/2018 7:20 PM

Lawmakers have impeached a third West Virginia Supreme Court justice in a scandal over spending and office renovations.

The West Virginia House of Delegates approved an impeachment article Monday against Chief Justice Margaret Workman.

The article says Workman and Justice Robin Davis signed documents in their roles as chief justices allowing for senior status judges to be paid higher than allowed wages. Lawmakers say the overpayments violated state law and stopped when they were challenged by the Internal Revenue Service.

Separate impeachment articles were approved earlier against Davis and suspended Justice Allen Loughry for lavish spending on their office renovations. Loughry also was impeached by lawmakers for moving an expensive, antique desk owned by the state to his home.

Other articles are under consideration. Justice Beth Walker is the only current justice who has not been impeached. A fifth justice, Menis Ketchum, retired last month.


West Virginia lawmakers have impeached a second state Supreme Court justice accused in a spending scandal.

The House of Delegates voted Monday to send an impeachment article against Justice Robin Davis to the state Senate for trial after earlier impeaching indicted Justice Allen Loughry. The charges against both were related to office renovations. Davis spent more than $500,000 on her office and Loughry spent more than $363,000 on his.

Republican Delegate Tom Fast of Fayette County says he's seen the work done in Davis' office, including track lighting on the floor.

He says the work was "over the top" and the impeachment article "is one of the more easy ones" for him to support.


UPDATE: 8/13/2018, 1:45 P.M.
West Virginia's House of Delegates has voted to impeach suspended Justice Allen Loughry over $363,000 in spending on his office renovations.

The 64-33 vote Monday sends the charge to the state Senate for a trial.

Loughry is under federal indictment and named in eight impeachment articles, including allegations he lied about taking home a $42,000 antique desk and a $32,000 suede leather couch. Other articles involve upgrades of the offices of Chief Justice Margaret Workman and justices Robin Davis and Beth Walker.

Some legislators said they didn't support impeaching any justice for wasteful spending, only for articles pertaining to lying, cheating or stealing. But Republican Delegate John Shott of Mercer County asked whether there is public confidence in the court, and if not, "we need to take action to try to rebuild that trust."

Several lawmakers noted that the Supreme Court has a separate budget and is currently allowed to spend as it sees fit. A proposed constitutional amendment this fall would bring the state courts' budget partly under legislative control.


UPDATE 8/13/18 @ 11:43 A.M.
A proposed bill to impeach West Virginia's remaining Supreme Court justices is now under review by the full House of Delegates.

The House Judiciary Committee, tasked with leading this investigation, adopted articles of impeachment Aug. 7 after several weeks of witness testimony and going through evidence.

Now, House Resolution 202 is on the House floor Monday. Each article within the legislation will be debated, amended and approved separately.

The proposal as a whole recommends that "Chief Justice Margaret Workman, Justice Allen Loughry, Justice Robin Davis, and Justice Elizabeth Walker, Justices of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, be impeached for maladministration, corruption, incompetency, neglect of duty, and certain high crimes and misdemeanors."

This unprecedented investigation comes after Justice Loughry was indicted on 23 federal charges. (The original indictment included 22 charges, but a superseding indictment made it 23.) The indictment includes mail fraud, wire fraud, witness tampering, making false statements to a federal agent and obstruction of justice.

The West Virginia Judicial Commission also filed 32 formal charges against Loughry in June. The scope of these proceedings, though, covers all the Supreme Court justices.

Justice Loughry is currently suspended from the bench without pay.

Justice Menis E. Ketchum announced on July 11 that he is retiring and resigning from the high court effective July 27.

Remaining on the bench are Chief Justice Margaret L. Workman, Justice Robin Jean Davis, and Justice Elizabeth D. Walker.

Many of the allegations center around expensive renovations made to the Supreme Court offices and other accusations of financial wrongdoing.


UPDATE: 8/9/2018, 7:16 P.M.

Judge Paul T. Farrell will serve as a West Virginia Supreme Court Justice during the suspension of Justice Allen Loughry, according to an order Chief Justice Margaret Workman filed late Thursday.

Judge Farrell was appointed to the bench in the Sixth Judicial Circuit (Cabell County) by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin on February 14, 2011, and was elected in 2012.

Judge Farrell was born in Huntington.

He graduated from Xavier University in 1971 and West Virginia University College of Law in 1978.

At the time of his appointment to the bench he had been practicing law at Farrell, Farrell, & Farrell, PLLC, for fifteen years. He also previously served as Assistant Attorney General for West Virginia (1978), Counsel for the West Virginia Senate President (1982-1989), Administrative Law Judge at the West Virginia Department of Employment Security (1988-1990), Hearing Examiner for the West Virginia Workers’ Compensation Board (1985-1988), Adjunct Professor of Criminal Justice at Marshall University (1982-1985), Assistant Trust Officer at First Huntington National Bank (1978-1980), Assistant Cabell County Prosecutor (1982-1990), solo practitioner (1980-1990) and Assistant United States Attorney (1990-1995). Judge Farrell served in the U. S. Army from 1971-1973 as a First Lieutenant.

Judge Farrell is active in the Huntington community, having served as Little League president and coach, youth soccer coach, high school and college soccer referee, and as a volunteer at Hospice of Huntington and Habitat for Humanity.

He is married to Charlene M. Farrell and they have three sons and seven grandchildren.

West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Margaret Workman says the Supreme Court's term will begin on September 5, 2018, and the Court docket will proceed as originally scheduled.


UPDATE: 8/8/2018 5:45 P.M.

Two local delegates say they want to hear all the facts, when the West Virginia House of Delegates votes on impeachment of four state supreme court justices.

The full House is expected to take up impeachment proceedings when it convenes Monday.

Two Wood County delegates we spoke to Wednesday said they will go into next week's process with an open mind.

"We're like a grand jury," noted Delegate Vernon Criss "is there enough evidence to bring the articles of impeachment to the Senate, and so the Senate may sit, and two-thirds, which means 23 Senators, will vote for a guilty plea or a not guilty plea?"

"These folks, who are the same as anyone else that's been charged with an issue, are still considered innocent until proven guilty," said Delegate John Kelly. "They're entitled to have a fair and open-minded hearing from the members of the Legislature, and I believe we have to give them that."

A concern is that, if all four justices are removed, Governor Jim Justice could appoint all of their replacements.

Criss notes, however, Justice could call for a special election late this year or early next year, and let voters decide on their replacements.


Update: 8/7/2018

The House Judiciary Committee Tuesday cited indicted Justice Allen Loughry and the three other justices in forwarding 14 of 16 proposed articles to the full House of Delegates. Two articles were rejected. Most dealt with spending and lavish office renovations.

The House will meet starting next Monday. If the House approves any of the articles, an impeachment trial would be held in the state Senate.

Loughry was indicted in federal court in June on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, lying to federal law enforcement, witness tampering and obstruction of justice. Gov. Jim Justice and legislative leaders have asked him to resign.

Justice Menis Ketchum retired last month and was not involved in the hearings. Last week prosecutors said Ketchum has agreed to plead guilty in federal court to one count of wire fraud stemming from the personal use of state-owned vehicles and fuel cards.


A list of articles of impeachment approved and rejected by the West Virginia House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, including the justices involved and the allegations against them.

APPROVED

Article 1: Robin Davis and Margaret Workman, signed documents in their roles as chief justices allowing for senior status judges to be overpaid in violation of state law.

Article 2: Davis, Workman, Allen Loughry and Beth Walker, abusing their authority by failing to control office expenses, including renovations, and not maintaining policies over matters such as state vehicles, working lunches and the use of office computers at home.

Article 3: Loughry, keeping a state-owned Cass Gilbert desk at his residence.

Article 4: Loughry, using state-owned computers in his residence.

Article 5: Loughry is charged with using state-owned vehicles for personal use, including over holidays.

Article 6: Loughry, preparing an administrative order authorizing senior status judges be paid in excess of allowed wages.

Article 7: Loughry, $363,000 in spending on office renovations.

Article 8: Walker, $131,000 in spending on office renovations.

Article 10: Davis, $500,000 in spending on office renovations.

Article 11: Davis, allowing senior status judges to be paid in excess of allowed wages.

Article 12: Workman, $111,000 in spending on office renovations.

Article 14: Workman, authorizing senior status judges to be paid in excess of allowed wages while she was chief justice.

Article 15: Loughry, lying to the House Finance Committee members about his involvement in his office renovations.

Article 16: Loughry, using state money to frame personal items at his office.

REJECTED:

Article 9: Walker, paying for an outside counsel to write a 2017 opinion.

Article 13: Workman, hiring a contracted IT employee who previously worked on her campaign.

(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


Update: 8/7/2018 5:45 P.M.

Local attorney George Cosenza discussed the impeachment proceedings Tuesday.

He doubts, in spite of the articles that have been approved, that all of West Virginia's Supreme Court justices will be impeached and removed from the court.

"It wouldn't surprise me if one of the three had articles conferred against them," Cosenza said. "It doesn't mean they are guilty of anything just because articles of impeachment are drawn up or voted upon by the legislature. It doesn't mean automatically they are going to be removed. There still has to be a legal proceeding."


UPDATE: 12:30 P.M.

A West Virginia legislative committee has heard 14 potential articles of impeachment against four state Supreme Court justices.

The articles were read Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee at the state Capitol in Charleston. The committee is holding a lengthy debate on a motion to adopt all 14 draft articles.

Suspended Justice Allen Loughry is mentioned in six of the articles. Loughry was indicted in federal court in June on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, lying to federal law enforcement, witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

Other articles of impeachment involve justices Margaret Workman, Robin Davis and Beth Walker.

Justice Menis Ketchum retired last month. Last week prosecutors said Ketchum has agreed to plead guilty to one federal count of wire fraud stemming from the personal use of state-owned vehicles and fuel cards.

You can read all 14 Draft Impeachment Articles Against W.Va. Supreme Court Justices in the .PDF file in the "Related Documents" section of this story.


UPDATE: 8/6/18 4:20 P.M.

Delegates, selected members of the media, attorneys and counsel for House Democrats, Joe Altizer, were guided through an approximately 40-minute tour of the offices belonging to the current and former West Virginia Supreme Court Justices, as an investigation to determine whether one or all of the justices should be impeached continues.

The majority of the tour was spent in Justice Allen Loughry's office, which included the $32,000 couch revealed by the State Auditors' Office in a report that led to Loughry's current suspension, indictment, and the impeachment investigation.

In addition to the couch, the group took note of an inlaid wooden floor designed just for the justice, as well as Loughry's television and professionally framed photographs on the wall.

Chief Justice Margaret Workman greeted visitors at her office. She sat behind the desk as she pointed out the only renovations made by taxpayer dollars were a built-in wooden cabinet and flooring.

“Where I spent the money that I spent was on permanent fixtures, all the built in cabinets, shelving and flooring that will be here a hundred years from now,” Workman said.

During the tour, Chief Justice Workman spoke to a media pool representative about controversy surrounding the tour, which was postponed from its original date after the Supreme Court put out a statement titled “House Judiciary Committee tour not open to media, public."

Workman said there was an initial disagreement over rules for the tour.

“I welcome anybody who wants to come in and see these offices. We have never closed these offices off to the press. Kennie Bass was here and took pictures months and months ago. But Art Angus our security guy really wants the layout not be published," she stated. “With this day and age, I think we’re aware of shooters and possible dangers.”

"Originally, I think our staff had talked with Chairman Shott and they had agreed it wasn’t a public meeting and there really wasn’t any controversy. However, I know some of the members had said it should be open. We had no objection to that, except for anything related to security," she added.

Workman also addressed a letter sent by the court to the House Judiciary Committee that referred to the hearings as a “fishing expedition” due to the broadness of them.

“The concern was we just wanted to know what the rules of the proceeding were going to be. On one hand, it’s been likened to the way a grand jury functions and yet if it were like a grand jury the members wouldn’t be going on talk radio or serving dinner to a witness.”

Workman referred to court administrator Steve Canterbury. After Canterbury testified in an all-day hearing, and accepted the invitation to eat dinner prepared by Chairman Shott’s wife, which was offered to all the delegates and staff.

“We need to get information from all sides, not just a side with an ax to grind,” Workman said.

“Just remember everything in here belongs to me but that was what cost a few dollars as well as the floor. And those things will be here a few hundred years from now,” she said, pointing at the wood cabinets," she added at the interview's conclusion.

Delegates did not have many comments on Justice Beth Walker’s Office, but the conversation picked up in Justice Davis' office--the most expensive renovation. Items noted included two Edward Fields floor rubs with a value of $28,000 and a desk chair valued at $8,000, which Davis has claimed helps with arthritis pain.

Little was left of Justice Menis Ketchum's office, as his resignation from the court has already taken effect. However, there were framed personal items, such as newspaper clippings and other keepsakes that Ketchum has not been allowed to retrieve yet, as the framing was done with public funds and is part of the investigation.

Ketchum's office also contained a table and two desks associated with Capitol architect Cass Gilbert.

The tour also included a look at other areas of the office space, including the office of counsel and the Supreme Court chambers.


ORIGINAL STORY 8/6/18

West Virginia lawmakers have toured the state Supreme Court's offices on Monday as part of an investigation into whether to recommend impeachment proceedings for Justice Allen Loughry.

House Judiciary Committee members were joined by a media pool along the tour Monday at the state Capitol in Charleston.

The tour was delayed from last month after the committee cited concerns about possible open meetings law violations because the court initially refused to allow photography or video of the tour.

Loughry has pleaded not guilty in federal court to multiple counts involving alleged fraud. He was suspended over similar allegations that he repeatedly lied about using his office for personal gain.

House Judiciary Committee Democrats have demanded a vote on recommending impeachment proceedings, saying there's more than enough evidence to move forward.



 
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