CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As the legislature blazes a new impeachment trail, one that could lead to the unprecedented sweeping out of the entire state Supreme Court, the historical significance of their action is evident.
Even members of the committee noted in this week’s vote in which 14 of 16 articles of impeachment were adopted, the gravity of the undertaking. House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Shott noted it was a no win proposition and it was not a good day for the state of West Virginia..
Ranking Democrat on the committee Barbara Fleischauer called it “a huge thing.” Delegate Rodney Miller noted during the presentation it was a decision those involved would “..live with from now on.”
Although the action is a first for members of the Supreme Court, some who were involved in the last impeachment action recall the same feelings.
“What I remember was the weight of it suddenly coming in on me,” said former Delegate Rick Staton who was a freshman member of the legislature in the 1990 impeachment proceedings of Treasurer A. James Manchin. “It hit me, we had a person’s livelihood, their political life, and their government life in our hands. It had repercussions well beyond just removal from office. He could lose his pension among other things.”
Charleston Mayor Danny Jones was also a member of the Judiciary Committee during the Manchin proceedings and agreed with Staton.
“I remember the further we got into it, the more clear it became what we were doing,” he said on his radio show 580-Live on MetroNews flagship station WCHS Radio in Charleston.
Another member of Judiciary Committee in 1990 was former Hardy County Delegate Marc Harman.
“Once (Speaker) Chuck Chambers and (Committee Chairman) John Hatcher got up to speed on the activities the Treasurer’s Office engaged in to get us to that point, this whole thing became a very bi-partisan movement.” Harman said.
All three commended the actions of committee Chairman John Shott as he oversaw the proceedings in recent weeks. They likened his work to that of former Judiciary Committee Chairman Hatcher, now a judge in Fayette County, in handling a difficult situation with an even hand.
“His personality and his demeanor were perfect for the procedure,” said Harman of Shott. “I don’t think in the heat of any of it I ever saw John Shott get the least bit perturbed.”
“I truly didn’t know how Hatcher was going to vote on any article of impeachment until the first vote, that’s how fairly he conducted the hearing,” added Staton. “That’s exactly how I feel about Chairman Shott.”
One key difference between 1989 and today’s proceedings was the timing. The Manchin Impeachment happened while lawmakers were in regular session. Amid the normal business of running legislation, lawmakers were also engaged in gathering evidence and presenting testimony before committee members. According to Harman, who was one of the House Managers on the proceeding in 1989, there were a lot of very late nights at the Capitol.
The three former lawmakers, all still politically connected in West Virginia, say the one thing to remember for all of those participating in the process this time around, the gravity of the action and the impact lasts forever in state history.