CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A lot has happened since the last time members of the House Judiciary Committee met to hear testimony in connection with the possible impeachment of one or more members of the state Supreme Court.
The committee is scheduled to regather Monday at the state capitol to tour the much-talked-about offices of the Supreme Court and to meet in private to discuss the definitions of impeachment.
“We need to discuss what we’ve learned, try to develop some understanding of the standards the constitution imposes, perhaps even adopt some definitions and then decide if we’re ready to move forward with a recommendation to the full House,” Judiciary Chairman John Shott said.
Since the last meeting
Three days after his retirement/resignation became official, 10-year justice Menis Ketchum signed a federal information agreeing to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud for using a state vehicle and state-issued fuel card for personal business.
A day later, last Wednesday, Democratic members of the judiciary committee issued a news release demanding a committee vote on Articles of Impeachment for suspended and indicted Justice Allen Loughry. Claiming there is more than enough evidence to take the case to the full House. The minority members have come up with eight proposed articles against Loughry focusing on things like the personal use of state property, lying to the House Finance Committee while under oath and violating the Code of Judicial Conduct.
One thing missing from the proposed articles is the spending of taxpayer funds on what’s considered lavish office renovations. The thing that started the entire review.
Judiciary Committee ranking Democratic Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, said Friday during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline” it’s less clear if the spending, which the evidence has shown took place in the offices of all the judges, is an impeachable offense.
“I’m not sure of the answer to that question so that’s one of the reasons we decided not to include it,” Fleischauer said. “Right now, the Court has total authority over its budget—that’s what our Constitution says.”
It appears highly unlikely there will be a recommending of Articles of Impeachment, a vote by the full House and a trial in the Senate by the Aug. 14 ballot appearing deadline. It’s something Democrats have pushed for but Shott has stayed by the original plan to discuss the evidence as it relates to all of the justices.
“It’s (Aug. 14 date) not practical, not realistic and I’d say almost impossible,” Shott said.
Fleischauer said dealing with Loughry first does not mean the committee shouldn’t keep hearing evidence involving Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justices Robin Davis and Beth Walker. In fact, she said more time is needed.
“You know, there are legal questions there, there are constitution questions there and there are evidentiary questions there and we can dig around with those questions but I don’t think we need to do that with Justice Loughry,” she said.
One person that hasn’t been paying attention to the judiciary committee’s work is Senate President Mitch Carmichael. He made it clear on “Talkline” Friday he doesn’t want to be influenced before the Senate sits as a jury, if that occurs.
He also said the Senate will not be pushed to meet some “artificial date” to get its work done.