CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An acting version of the state Supreme Court says it can no longer act to include justices Robin Davis and Allen Loughry in a ruling that halted Justice Margaret Workman’s impeachment trial.
But the acting court says that doesn’t really matter because the basis of the ruling would apply to the other justices anyway.
Davis announced her retirement the day after impeachment articles were passed by the House of Delegates. Loughry has been convicted in federal court on 11 charges but is only suspended so far.
The order relating to their impeachment trials, which had been scheduled over several weeks this fall, was distributed to media early this evening.
Lawyers for retired Justice Davis and suspended Justice Loughry had each filed motions asking for the decision in Workman’s case to be extended.
The acting Supreme Court concluded, “The Court no longer has jurisdiction to consider the motions because the mandate in this case has been issued.”
But, the acting Supreme Court continued, “Furthermore, by operation of law, the motions are not necessary.”
The acting Supreme Court cited case law saying when a question has been definitively determined, the court’s decision is conclusive.
The acting justices wrote, “The opinion in SER Workman v. Carmichael, No. 18-0816, 2018 WL 4941057, (Oct. 11, 2018), is the law of this State.”
The acting Supreme Court earlier this month blocked Workman’s impeachment trial on constitutional and procedural grounds.
An aspect of the ruling suggested the House of Delegates had not gone through proper procedures for the impeachment process by not including findings of fact in the articles and failing to pass a full resolution adopting the articles.
A separate opinion by acting justices Duke Bloom and Jacob Reger suggested the acting Supreme Court should not even have weighed in on the procedural matters.
“More importantly, the advisory opinion on the two issues has a lethal consequence — it has invalidated the impeachment trials of the two remaining judicial officers,” Bloom and Reger wrote.
Lawyers for Davis and Loughry each submitted motions to have the Workman ruling officially extended to their clients.
“Justice Allen H. Loughry II was impeached following the same procedures and on many of the grounds returned against Justice Workman,” according to the motion filed for the suspended justice.
“Justice Allen H. Loughry II respectfully moves the court to expand the writ issued in the Workman decision to prohibit the impeachment of Justice Loughry.”
West Virginia wound up in this tangle when, in August, the House of Delegates voted to impeach all the remaining justices on a variety of allegations that they had abused the powers of their office.
The state Senate, which has the power to remove state officials from office through an impeachment trial, decided to go ahead even with Davis’s trial, considering the potential effect on her state pension.
In the days leading up to Workman’s impeachment trial, the chief justice petitioned the very court on which she serves.
Workman recused herself from hearing her own case, as did the rest of the Supreme Court. Workman did set the wheels in motion by asking former Justice Tom McHugh to name a temporary chief justice for the case.
McHugh named Judge James Matish of Harrison County, and Matish named four more circuit judges.
The acting Supreme Court sided with Workman in a 65-page opinion.
The Senate gaveled in to go ahead with her trial, but the presiding judge required by the state Constitution didn’t appear, saying ahead of time that he could not violate a court order.
Since then, state lawmakers have been settling on a course of action.
The most widely discussed possibility was to ask the Supreme Court to reconsider all or part of its decision.
The likely grounds for such a motion was that although the Senate had been named in Workman’s petition, it actually took issue with the procedures of the House of Delegates.
Right after Workman’s impeachment trial was blocked, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw indicated delegates will join the fight.
“There is no chance this opinion stands,” said Hanshaw, R-Clay.