CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) — West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Margaret Workman’s legal counsel filed a petition with the court Friday seeking to halt her impeachment trial in the Senate, saying the three articles of impeachment against her are unconstitutional.
In the more than 40-page filing, Workman’s lawyers argue that her Oct. 15 trial should be halted because the articles of impeachment violate the doctrine of separation of powers, the state constitutional precedent regarding the appointment of senior-status judges and her due process rights.
The petition also claims the articles of impeachment are null and void because the resolution authorizing them was never adopted by the House.
On Aug. 13 and Aug. 14, the West Virginia House of Delegates passed three articles of impeachment against Workman, seven articles of impeachment against Justice Allen Loughry, four against former justice Robin Davis and one against Justice Beth Walker. Davis has since announced she has retired.
Workman's impeachment articles focus on the overpayment of senior-status judges as both justice and chief justice and oversight of the court.
It appeared at one point a deal had been worked out that called for the articles of impeachment against Workman and Walker to be dropped in exchange for censure and a reprimand. The proposed agreement worked out between the House managers and the justices and their attorneys, however, was rejected Sept. 11 by the Senate.
The Senate decided to proceed with the trials after Senate President Mitch Carmichael agreed with Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, who made the point he did not believe it was proper for the Senate to consider the proposed resolution since the Senate had not considered any evidence in impeachment trials.
Judge Paul Farrell, who is acting as a justice in the case, set trial dates for Workman for Oct. 15, Walker for Oct. 1, former justice Robin Davis for Oct. 29 and suspended Justice Allen Loughry for Nov. 12.
In the petition for Workman seeking to halt her impeachment trial, the conclusion said, “This writ is not intended to provide a constitutional crisis; it is intended to prevent one. Our Constitution assigns to the Legislature the sole power to impeach and convict public officials, including justices of this court. Indeed, the Legislature’s power to impeach is an essential check and balance on executive and judicial power. At the pre-trial conferences before the Senate, several legislators referenced the public’s lack of trust in the judiciary as a result of the spending reported in the news media. Similarly, to have trust in the impeachment process, the public needs the Legislature to follow the law.”
Workman, Walker and Farrell have disqualified themselves from hearing Workman's case. Circuit Judge James A. Matish, 15th Judicial Circuit (Harrison County) has been appointed as acting justice to hear Workman's case.
Below is a copy of the Workman petition: