CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) — After a historic impeachment vote by the West Virginia House of Delegates, a bombshell announcement was made Tuesday with the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis.
The announcement came at a news conference after the House of Delegates passed 11 of 14 articles of impeachment Monday and Tuesday for the four remaining Supreme Court justices.
Davis’ speech was filled with fiery defiance as she stepped to the podium.
“I deliver this statement today in dismay, disbelief and in sadness,” Davis said. “I feel profound grief for the state of West Virginia given the current state of affairs."
Davis said when a legislative body attempts to dismantle a court, a separate branch of government, it can only be “deemed disastrous.”
The longtime court member said the West Virginia House Judiciary Committee skipped the due process of law, and the majority party (the Republicans) “have ignored the will of the people who elected the justices of this court.”
"They've erased the lines of separation between the branches of government," she said.
Davis said she retired Monday, Aug. 13.
Coverage of the announcement can be viewed in the video below.
Davis declined questions from reporters.
The full text of Davis' speech can be viewed below:
The House voted to approve four articles of impeachment against Justice Davis. Article Two accuses Davis of wasteful spending with regard to office renovations. Article Four accuses both Davis and Justice Margaret Workman of wrongfully approving the overpayment of senior-status judges during their tenure as chief justice.
Article Five accuses Davis of signing forms to wrongfully approve the overpayment of senior-status judges. Article 14 accuses Davis, Workman and Justices Allen Loughry and Elizabeth Walker of failure to properly carry out administrative duties of the court.
With her seat on the Supreme Court now vacant, West Virginia voters can elect her replacement in November. Davis' retirement actually leaves two open seats on the court. She had six years left in her term. The other justice seat that is vacant, a two-year term, opened previously when Menis Ketchum retired from the court. Aug. 21 is the deadline for candidates to file. Candidates who already filed for Ketchum’s seat could switch to run for Davis’ slot if they desire to do so.
Davis said she has faith in the people of West Virginia, who will elect her successor.
Gov. Jim Justice released a statement, saying that he had accepted a letter from Davis indicating that she is retiring.
“Today my general counsel will provide the necessary documentation to the Secretary of State’s Office so that the special election process may begin immediately for this vacancy,” Justice said in a news release. “The Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission will immediately begin the process of filling this vacancy with an appointee to serve as a justice until the people of West Virginia elect a new justice in a special election.”
The governor also said he sent a letter to Davis acknowledging her retirement and thanked her, on behalf of the people of West Virginia, for her public service during her tenure on the state Supreme Court.
Justice is calling for a special election to run concurrently with the Nov. 6, 2018 general election to fill Davis' seat.
Below is a copy of the letter Davis sent to the governor.
Senate President Mitch Carmichael released his statement regarding Davis' retirement.
"We appreciate and respect the decision of Justice Davis to step down from the West Virginia Supreme Court," Carmichael said in the statement. "Because of her decision to step down today, the Governor will be able to give the people of West Virginia the ability to choose the person who will replace her. We thank Justice Davis for the years of service she gave to the State of West Virginia, and we wish her well in the future."
West Virginia's highest court has been rocked by controversy since an Eyewitness News iTeam investigative story in November 2017 first revealed questionable spending practices that surrounded a $3.7 million renovation.
The story and follow-up stories about the use of state vehicles, expensive lunches and use of state resources created a firestorm in the Legislature and calls for an impeachment investigation of Loughry. State audits also lambasted some of the court’s practices.
Loughry faces 23 federal charges that accuse him of mail and wire fraud, witness tampering and making false statements to the FBI. He pleaded not guilty to the charges. Loughry also faces allegations that he violated the Code of Judicial Conduct.
In July, Menis Ketchum announced that he was retiring from the bench effective at the end of the business day July 27. Federal prosecutors later said Ketchum agreed to plead guilty in an information to one count of wire fraud. They declined to comment whether Ketchum’s retirement was linked to the federal investigation.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Shott, issued a statement in response to Justices Robin Davis' announcement to resign.
“We thank Justice Davis for her decades of service on the bench, and for her retirement, which will now spare the state the cost of an impeachment trial against her. As we have said many times throughout these proceedings, this is a sad time for the state of West Virginia, and no one takes joy in this process," Delegate Shott said.
Delegate Shott was the chairman who was charged with overseeing the House Judiciary Committee's filing of articles of impeachment.
“Unfortunately, as we pursued the evidence, it became clear that the state Supreme Court has been overcome by a culture of entitlement and cavalier indifference with regard to the spending of taxpayer money. This has resulted in the public’s loss of confidence in the state's highest court which must be repaired. I believe Justice Davis’s decision to resign, as well as the coming trials in the state Senate, will help move us toward the ultimate goal of restoring our citizens’ trust in the judiciary," Del. Shott explained.