CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Lawyers for Justice Beth Walker have filed a motion to dismiss an article of impeachment against her.
The motion was filed with the Senate clerk on Friday. Pretrial hearings are to begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the historic impeachment trial of West Virginia’s remaining Supreme Court justices.
Walker, who was elected in 2016, was named in only one of the 11 impeachment articles passed last month by the House of Delegates.
That article accuses all four remaining justices of failing to establish policies about remodeling state offices, travel budgets, computers for home use and framing of personal items.
Essentially, the article claims the justices failed to hold each other accountable. All of the remaining justices were named in that article.
Because the only article that mentions Walker is that one, her lawyers have asked to be dismissed.
“In short, there is not a single allegation in Article XIV against Justice Walker individually — only generalized allegations against the court as a collective body,” her lawyers wrote. “Removal cannot rest on such allegations as a matter of logic or law.”
The lawyers describe the article as a “catch-all that purports to hold Justice Walker responsible for institutional policies that — as a lone justice with a single vote — she never had the authority to make
“Not only that, but several of the alleged policy failures in Article XIV arose years before Justice Walker took the bench.”
On Aug. 14, the night the House of Delegates voted on the articles of impeachment, Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, proposed an amendment removing Walker’s name from the all-encompassing maladministration article.
“Justice Walker, during her tenure on the court, has not served as chief justice,” Gearheart said then. She has not been the lead person on budgetary or administration issues on the court.”
Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, spoke up to disagree: “I object to this motion because this is a statement that as a body the court failed to put oversight into effect.”
Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, described a “blatant attempt to carve out conservative justice. Come on guys, you’re not even trying to hide it any more.”
The amendment that would have removed Justice Walker from the article meant to hold the entire court accountable for each other, wound up being rejected 12-83.
The next step in West Virginia’s historic impeachment of the Supreme Court is 10 a.m. Tuesday when the Senate will have pretrial hearings.
The state Constitution gives delegates the power of impeachment, but only a trial in the Senate would actually remove justices from office.
West Virginia’s Constitution allows for any officer of the state to be impeached for maladministration, corruption, incompetency, gross immorality, neglect of duty, or any high crime or misdemeanor.
The only justice who wasn’t under consideration for impeachment was Menis Ketchum, spared because he submitted his resignation the day before proceedings began.
Justice Robin Davis announced her resignation the day after the House voted in favor of the articles.
Because of the timing, she was still served with papers and, as of now, would be involved in the impeachment trial. Her lawyers could file a motion asking for her to be removed from impeachment, or a senator could file such a motion on her behalf.
Presiding Justice Paul Farrell, normally a Cabell circuit judge who is serving because the entire Supreme Court is impeached, will entertain motions at the Tuesday hearing.
He may also set trial dates.