CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Acting justices on the state Supreme Court issued a ruling to block the impeachment trial of Justice Margaret Workman, putting the legislative and judicial branches of West Virginia’s state government in direct conflict.
“This case is not about whether or not a justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia can or should be impeached; but rather it is about the fact that to do so, it must be done correctly and constitutionally with due process,” the ruling stated.
“We are a nation of laws and not of men, and the rule of law must be followed.”
The ruling issued Thursday afternoon was made by five circuit judges who were named temporarily to serve on the Supreme Court.
Workman, whose impeachment trial in the Senate, is scheduled to start Monday, had recused herself from hearing her own petition.
Lawyers for Workman on Sept. 21 filed a petition challenging the legality of impeachment proceedings in the House of Delegates and requesting a stay of impeachment trial in the Senate.
“This writ is not intended to provoke a constitutional crisis; it is intended to prevent one,” wrote the lawyers representing Workman.
The ruling issued Thursday afternoon states the allegations in three articles of impeachment against Workman violate the separation of powers doctrine.
In addition, the acting Supreme Court ruled the House of Delegates never formally approved the impeachment resolution against the justices.
MORE: Read the ruling HERE.
“We have determined that prosecution of Petitioner for the allegations set out in Article IV, Article VI and Article XIV of the Articles of Impeachment violates the separation of powers doctrine,” the acting justices ruled.
“The Respondents also do not have jurisdiction over the alleged violation in Article XIV as drafted.”
Acting Chief Justice James Matish delivered the opinion of the court while acting justices Duke Bloom and Jacob Reger concurred and dissented parts of the opinion.
The articles in question involve the overpayment of senior-status judges and allegations of failing to implement administrative policies and procedures.
A spokeswoman for the state Senate said lawmakers will challenge the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Pursuant to the authority granted the Senate in the West Virginia Constitution, the Court of Impeachment will convene at 9 a.m. Monday,” Senate spokeswoman Jacque Bland stated.
Judge Paul Farrell, who has been the presiding over the impeachment trials in the Senate, indicated to The Charleston Gazette-Mail that the acting Supreme Court’s ruling would prevent him from overseeing Workman’s trial, even if senators attempt to go ahead.
Retired justice Robin Davis’ trial is scheduled for Oct. 29, and the impeachment trial of suspended Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry is set for Nov. 12.
MetroNews Statewide Correspondent Brad McElhinny contributed to this story.