The state Senate is scheduled to gavel in at 9 a.m. Monday. The impeachment trial for Workman had been set for 9:30, but an acting Supreme Court issued an order blocking the trial.
One major obstacle is that the state Constitution requires a presiding officer designated by the Supreme Court for an impeachment trial. Judge Paul Farrell, who has been serving in that role, has stated that the acting court’s order will prevent him from continuing.
The Senate will go ahead and meet Monday morning because senators adjourned until that date after the impeachment trial of Justice Beth Walker.
But plowing ahead with a trial for Workman will be impossible under current circumstances, Senate President Mitch Carmichael said.
“We always knew that we had to go into session on Monday but as far as conducting a trial it’s going to be basically impossible to do without a judge,” Carmichael told The Register-Herald.
11:15 a.m. Majority Leader Ferns moves the Senate stand adjourned until subsequently called by the president. Vote: 29 yea, 1 nay, 1 absent. The nay was Romano.
So senators depart, with the likelihood that attorneys for the Senate will ask for a reconsideration of some aspects of the Supreme Court’s ruling that blocked Justice Workman’s impeachment trial.
10:18 a.m. I stepped out to provide an update on MetroNews’ “Talkline.” Meanwhile, debate about what to do next has continued in the Senate.
Senator Robert Karnes, R-Upshur, is standing and speaking now. He is making the case that senators have a constitutional duty.
He is also accusing Chief Justice Workman of hijinks, saying she first chose the presiding officer of the impeachment trial and then moved forward with a motion to the Supreme Court to halt the proceedings.
Karnes then made the case that Presiding Judge Farrell should be compelled to appear.
Senator Greg Boso, R-Nicholas, then calls for cooler heads: “This is difficult. It’s a struggle. It should be a struggle. It’s the best way we can get it right.”
Senator Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, stands and says the Senate could be trusted to hear an impeachment trial fairly and impartially. “I’m proud to serve with each and every one of you because of what we’ve done so far.”
Senator Mike Romano, D-Harrison, talks in support of the rule of law. “The courts are the arbiter of the rule of law.”
Romano says, “To turn our back on the rule of law is to turn our back on the Constitution.”
10:01 a.m. Senator Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, says this situation could provide guidance for future legislators dealing with impeachment proceedings.
Weld says he’s concerned the Supreme Court decision affects the Legislature’s ability to hold public officials accountable. He also suggests the decision places the judiciary above the other branches.
9:24 a.m. Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan, addresses the Senate. He says his address is at Carmichael’s request.
Trump begins by saying how the Senate reacts will dictate how it is judged.
“For those of you who haven’t read the opinion, I strongly recommend that you do so,” Trump says. “I will give the Supreme Court, those assembled, to make a thorough survey of the law and, in the opinion, crafted give rationale or reasoning for its decision.”
Trump continues, “The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of what is or is not constitutional.”
He notes that the acting Supreme Court ruled that Supreme Court Prime has the constitutional oversight for judiciary administrative decisions like the payment of senior status judges.
“My opinion, as to those questions, that’s it,” Senator Trump says. “The Supreme Court is the highest authority that there is on those questions.”
Trump then notes that the acting Supreme Court ruling also got into the area of House procedures. “On that particular point, it seems to me that there is a problem.”
He says the original writ did not name anybody from the House as a party.
“Our role in impeachment is essentially as a jury,” Senator Trump says. “So to the extent that Chief Justice Workman’s petition called upon the state Supreme Court to review what occurred in the West Virginia House of Delegates, the West Virginia Senate is not the right party to answer.”
Trump says if those arguments hadn’t won out before the substitute Supreme Court, it’s likely that Chief Justice Workman’s lawyers would have raised many of the same points before the Senate.
“Let’s be honest, we’re in uncharted territory here,” Trump notes.
Senator Trump suggests the Senate shouldn’t be the body to defend the House’s procedures, particularly while senators are serving as jurors.
“History will judge us for how we react and what we do in this moment,” Trump says.
What should the Senate do?
“My opinion is we should ask the state Supreme Court to reconsider at least part of its decision, the part that relates to the adjudication of the propriety of the procedures in the House of Delegates. We were never the right party to make the defense,” Senator Trump says.
Trump suggests the aspect that would be reconsidered is the part about the House’s procedures. He suggests the House should be a party: “They are the right entity to do that.”
Senator Trump clarifies that he is not talking about challenging the issues of constitutionality: “In my opinion, that part of the case is over.”
9:22 a.m. “The hour has arrived for the Senate to sit as court of impeachment. The Senate will call presiding officer Farrell to the chair,” says President Carmichael.
But he doesn’t come so they recess until he appears.
(Narrator: He won’t.)
9:17 a.m. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of rush to get going.
The bell to gather has rung twice. Senate President Carmichael is now here and walking to the podium. A lot of mingling is happening.
Third bell just rang.
9:02 a.m. Some — but certainly not all — of the key players are gathered.
Senators are coming in. House Judiciary Chairman John Shott, who has played a role akin to a prosecutor, is up front along with some of the House attorneys.
Another of the House managers, Delegate Rodney Miller, D-Boone, is also here, although Miller says he has no intention of participating in an impeachment trial in violation of a court order.