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W.Va. House panel votes to approve multiple articles of impeachment

The West Virginia House Judiciary Committee introduces 14 proposed articles of impeachment that include Supreme Court Justices Margaret Workman, Allen Loughry, Robin Davis and Beth Walker. (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)

West Virginia House Judicial Committee members have voted to recommend multiple articles of impeachment that include Justices Margaret Workman, Robin Davis, Allen Loughry and Beth Walker.

Committee members passed 14 of the 16 articles. The panel has rejected two articles, article nine against Walker, dealing with outside counsel she hired to write an opinion, and article 13 against Workman, regarding the hiring of employees for political favors.

Below is the House panel deliberations of the 16 articles:

House Judiciary Committee members' recommendations will go to the full House for a vote. The House will meet in special session at 10 a.m. Monday, Aug. 13, to consider the matter. If the House approves, the articles of impeachment would go to the Senate for a trial.

“This is truly a sad day for West Virginia, but it is an important step forward if we are going to restore the public’s confidence in the judiciary,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer. “This committee did not take this effort lightly. After reviewing all the evidence available to us, it became clear that a culture of entitlement and disregard for both the law and taxpayer funds have damaged the reputation of our judicial system – and that all justices had a part in violating the public’s trust.”

Other lawmakers share their reactions to the news below:

Article one, which accuses Workman and Davis of signing contracts that paid senior status judges more than allowed by state code, passed by a vote of 17 to 7.

Article six, which accuses Loughry of signing a contract that paid senior status judges more than allowed by state code, passed by a vote of 18-6.

Committee members also passed proposed article of impeachment 11 against Davis regarding payment of senior status judges and article 14 against Workman regarding the payment of senior status judges. Those two articles passed on a voice vote.

By voice vote, committee members also approved article two alleging Justices Loughry, Workman, Davis and Beth Walker are guilty of not mandating policies to control spending on renovations, vehicle use, lunches, home use of computers, travel costs and other expenditures. Counsel said there were no policies to check or audit.

Article three, which dealt with the Cass Gilbert desk that Loughry kept at his home, and article four, which focuses on a state government computer that Loughry had his home, also passed the committee on voice vote.

Committee members, after some discussion, also OK’d on a voice vote article five that deals with Loughry's personal use of a state-owned vehicle, including but not limited to travel to a book signing event at The Greenbrier resort. The article was passed after an amendment by Delegate Fleischauer that covers Loughry taking state-owned vehicles over the holidays. It was approved on a 21-3 roll call vote.

After much discussion, the House panel voted to make a 15th proposed article of impeachment for consideration, regarding allegations against Loughry that he lied to the House Finance Committee when making the state Supreme Court budget. presentation.

Committee members voted 21-3 to approve article 7 of impeachment against Loughry regarding the $363,000 in renovations made to his office, including a nearly $32,000 couch.

Article eight that focuses on expenses surrounding Walker's chamber, which were renovated at a cost of $131,000, was approved by the committee. The work included cabinets, other office furnishings and wallpaper. Those chambers have been extensively renovated just seven years earlier.

Committee members approved article 10 that deals with more than $500,000 in renovations that were made to Davis' office.

Article 12 that focuses on $111,000 renovations made to Workman's office was passed by the committee by a vote of 13-10.

Committee adopted article 15 dealing with allegations that Loughry lied to the House Finance Committee.

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UPDATE:

West Virginia House Judiciary Committee members have resumed their discussion Monday afternoon of proposed impeachment articles for the state Supreme Court justices.

Committee members took more than an hour break and are now discussing the articles again.

Members of the committee are getting testy as they discuss the impeachment and making impassioned speeches to make their cases. They have been discussing article one that deals with allegations that Justices Margaret Workman and Robin Davis signed contracts that paid senior status judges over the maximum amount allowed under state code. In total, 14 articles of impeachment have been introduced against the four justices, Workman, Davis, Allen Loughry and Beth Walker.

Del. Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, said she didn’t feel comfortable in proceeding with the proposed articles of impeachment.

“We are lacking in sufficient evidence ow what each justice has done,” she said.

Fleischauer said the committee just received evidence Monday and that based on that she doesn't feel comfortable eliminating half of the court. She is surprised it listed article one and said she will vote no.

Del. Tom Fast, R-Fayette, said he has heard enough to vote for approval of article one. He said the House panel was not conducting a trial but merely making allegations.

Another panel member, Del. Rodney Miller, D-Boone, said he doesn’t believe the House panel is ready yet to vote on impeachment articles.

“We have to have a proven case. We can’t take something down the hall and have it blow up in our face,” Miller said. “This is history. You are making a decision that you are going to hear about the rest of your life.”

Del. Kelli Sobonya, R-Cabell, spoke in favor of article one. She said good government means following the law and the Legislature sets the law.

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UPDATE:

After voting to take up 14 proposed articles of impeachment individually against West Virginia’s four remaining justices, House Judiciary Committee members took up the first article Monday that involves Justices Margaret Workman and Robin Davis.

(Committee members recessed about 11:40 a.m. and said they would resume their deliberations at 1 p.m. Live coverage of the meeting will be embedded in a media player below.)

The article claims they violated state code by approving contracts for senior-status judges that pays them more than the maximum amount allowed.

Below are the proposed articles of impeachment:


Because the articles are similar, committee members then asked questions about article six, that deals with Loughry signing an administrative order regarding the overpayment of senior-status judges, article 11 that deals with senior-status judge overpayments, and article 14 that focuses on Workman’s signing forms that led to the overpayment of senior-status judges.

Del. Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, raised questions why the proposed articles do not include “findings of fact,” saying he is concerned that if the committee goes forward and votes it will lead to constitutional problems. Shott said the proposed articles were brought based on evidence and are set forth in the language in the articles.

Del. Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, said “findings of fact” is usually a list that spells out certain facts and then the recommendations are based on facts. She said findings of fact are usually required in most judicial matters.

Shott said he does not believe, however, that the resolution requires findings of fact, but one lawmaker wondered if the committee has gone far enough.

“If we are not technically sound in our document, can this blow up in our face when it reaches the Senate?” said Del. Rodney Miller, D-Boone.

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UPDATE:

The West Virginia House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday read Aloud 14 proposed articles of impeachment against Justices Allen Loughry, Margaret Workman, Robin Davis and Beth Walker.

West Virginia House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Shott said Tuesday the managers of the panel believe it is necessary to introduce articles of impeachment for all of the remaining justices on the state Supreme Court. The committee voted to take up each article of proposed impeachment individually. Coverage of the morning proceedings can be viewed here:


The panel had not voted on the articles as of 10:15 a.m., but Shott said the court had showed a “cavalier indifference” to protect taxpayer funds and assets and showed a superior attitude.

"There appears to be, based on the evidence before us, an atmosphere that has engulfed the court of cavalier indifference, to the expenditure of taxpayer funds, to the protection of taxpayer paid assets and an almost incomprehensible arrogance, that for some reason, they are not a co-equal branch but a superior branch of government," Shott said.

The first article of proposed impeachment includes Workman and Davis and alleges they assigned contracts to overpay senior-status judges over the maximum allowed.

Article two of proposed impeachment includes Workman, Loughry, Davis and Walker, and claims they wasted public funds and failed to provide proper oversight of the court through lavish spending on their offices, travel budgets and computer and home office use.

Loughry is the focus of article three, which deals with the Cass Gilbert desk he had transported from the Capitol to his home, where it remained for more than four years until it was transferred back to the state warehouse after controversy surfaced.

Article four deals with Loughry’s use of state computers at his home, including one that was for personal use and not connected to the court network.

Loughry also is the focus of article five, which alleges he used a state vehicle and fuel card for personal use to travel to The Greenbrier resort for book sales and signings.

Article six of the proposed articles of impeachment deals with Loughry and claims he violated state code by overpaying senior-status judges.

In article seven, the committee is alleging that Loughry wasted taxpayer funds with $360,000 in renovations in his office, including a nearly $32,000 couch and a medallion floor design that cost more than $7,000.

Article eight focuses on Walker and claims she spent more than $131,000 for renovations in her office, a space that had been renovated fewer than seven years before. The work included $27,000 in office furnishings and wallpaper.

Walker is the focus of article nine that alleges she hired outside help to assist in writing an opinion.

Article 10 focuses on Davis and relates to the more than $500,000 that was spent on Davis’ office renovations, including $20,000 on a rug, a desk chair that cost $8,000 and design services totaling $23,000.

Davis also is included in Article 11 that claims she signed forms approving the overpayment of senior-status judges over the maximum amount allowed by state code.

Article 12 deals with Workman’s office renovations, saying she wasted taxpayers’ money with $111,000 in work that included an expensive cherry floor.

Workman is the focus of article 13, which claims she directed the hiring of an information technology employee who was not necessary at a salary of $160,000.

Finally, article 14 deals with Workman, alleging that she signed forms that overpaid senior-status judges above the maximum limit allowed by state law.

“This is a sad day for our state and court,” Shott said. “This is not a cause for celebration, but it is the view of our managers these articles are necessary to restore confidence in our judiciary.”

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ORIGINAL STORY:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) - The West Virginia House Judiciary Committee will reconvene Tuesday morning in its Supreme Court probe.

The panel has been hearing testimonies and reviewing possible evidence of questionable spending among the Supreme Court to determine if there is reason to impeach one or more of the remaining justices.

On Monday, the committee toured the Supreme Court justices' chambers and then listened to Sue Racer Troy, chief financial officer for the court's financial division, give testimony, followed by questioning.

The committee went into executive session about 5:20 p.m. Monday but did not take any votes.

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