MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia. criticized the impeachment process of the committee’s Republicans as too partisan.
Fleischauer, who serves as the minority chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said it is still shocking to her that eliminating an entire branch of court is even being discussed.
“We were pretty surprised as Democrats because the night before, it was suggested that we would have a light morning on Tuesday and then they came back with all of these articles of impeachment and so we had to deal with it,” she said.
While Fleischauer did vote for some of the 16 articles of impeachment, she did not support all 14 articles that passed. She said her primary objection for not voting for those specific articles was a matter of what is “constitutional.”
“I agree that there was some lavish spending, more so by some justices than others, but under our constitution, they have complete control over their spending,” she said.
However, that control granted by the state Constitution, Fleischauer said, is part of what will be changed in November.
“There’s two separate articles that says they’re the boss over their money, and so until we change the Constitution, I think there are constitutional impediments to these, and certainly questionable so I didn’t think it was right to move forward,” she said.
As for the articles she did support, those came down to Justice Allen Loughry.
“I think it’s clear on Loughry,” she said. “He lied, he stole, he abused (his power), and he used things like state cars very cavalierly for his personal use.”
Fleischauer said the fact that Loughry was not the only justice of discussion Tuesday was “kind of ironic.”
“We asked them to hurry up on Loughry and they decided to hurry up on everybody, in part because they found out that they were under a much stricter deadline than they had realized. We all found that out,” she said.
Now, the Legislature remains on a tight schedule to finish the job, Fleischauer said.
“The Senate is going to have procedures that will require an answer, time to respond and preliminary hearings, and we can only act during the legislative session — the two year session,” she said. “So they were bumping up against A – the campaigns that are going on and B – whether they could even finish a trial before the election.”
Moving forward, Fleischauer said protocol is a little unknown.
“There may be one or two people that were around when A. James Manchin was impeached, but he was not tried. He resigned before they had the senate trial,” Fleischauer said. “Before that it was in the 1800s, so there are very few people who have a lot of knowledge about this.
If any of the justices are removed, Gov. Jim Justice could appoint an equal number of justices to the state Supreme Court. Only one seat will be filled through the electoral process, to fill the seat left vacant by retired Justice Menis Ketchum, who is scheduled for a plea hearing hearing in federal court later this month.
The House Judiciary Committee will resume session Monday.
“They will need to adopt rules to figure out how they’re going to try this case. This is trying four separate different people who have different terms and different charges against them,” Fleischauer said. “They have to get all of that done before the next legislature comes in, which is in December, and maybe they’ll do that now because of this rush.”