CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The possible removal from office of four state Supreme Court justices has left the state’s legal community facing a possible dilemma, a longtime practicing attorney said Thursday.
Chief Justice Margaret Workman and justices Allen Loughry, Robin Davis and Beth Walker are named in Articles of Impeachment filed earlier this week by the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee. If the full House approves any of those 14 articles the case would head to the state Senate for a trial. One or more justices could face possible removal from office.
The Supreme Court’s fall term is scheduled to begin in early September. MetroNews Legal Analyst Harvey Peyton said those cases involve real people who have been waiting for months to have their cases heard.
“Those are people who are in prison. Those are people who have custody, abuse and neglect issues. Those are businesses that need matters sorted out,” Peyton said Thursday on MetroNews “Talkline.” “How can that important function of state government be fulfilled if we have a cloud over four justices who may face removal?”
The Articles of Impeachment are generally linked to court spending, the lack of oversight and the alleged overpayment of senior status judges.
Loughry has already been suspended. He faces a 23-count federal criminal indictment and a 32-count statement of charges that he allegedly violated the Judicial Code of Conduct. Justice Menis Ketchum recently resigned with his seat expected to be filled before the fall term by Gov. Jim Justice.
The first arguments before the Court for the fall term are scheduled for Sept. 5. It’s not known when the Senate might hold a trial on the impeachment articles if it reaches that point. Peyton said there’s “an incredible strain of uncertainty on the entire legal community.”
“It’s not just the lawyers but those people who are litigants who have matters that need to be decided by this Court,” Peyton said.
He said nothing is currently stopping the current justices from hearing cases beginning next month but it’s possible their status could change before the end of the term.
“They certainly can do it. Whether in October or November they are confronted with removal from office after having heard arguments but not having yet deciding cases I have no idea how that can happen,” Peyton said.
There are currently 21 cases scheduled for oral arguments before the Court in September. There are argument dates set aside in October, November and December but no specific cases listed for those dates as of Thursday.