CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) — The West Virginia House of Delegates has voted to approve Article 14, effectively impeaching all four remaining Supreme Court justices.
The House voted to approve seven articles of impeachment against Justice Allen Loughry, four against Justice Robin Davis, three against Justice Margaret Workman and one against Justice Elizabeth Walker.
Article 14 was approved by a vote of 51 to 44 and focused on the administration of the court and failure to implement policies to control wasteful spending and use of resources.
Watch the discussion of Articles 12-14 below:
The House voted down Article 12 and voted to remove Article 13, dealing with Walker and Workman's office renovations.
By unanimous consent, House members voted to withdraw Article 11, which dealt with Loughry removing framed items that had been paid for by the state out of his personal chambers.
Article One, which deals with more than $363,000 in renovations to Loughry's office, including the infamous nearly $32,000 couch, was OK'd 64 to 33.
The House voted 97 to 0 on Article Three, which accuses Loughry of illegally possessing a historic Cass Gilbert desk at his private residence.
The House voted 56 to 41 on Article Two, which deals with the excessive spending on renovations and remodeling of Davis’ office. The renovations for Davis’ office began in October 2013 and cost slightly more than $500,000.
Watch the discussion of Articles Two through Eleven below:
Del. Tom Fast, R-Fayette, recommended an amendment to Article Two, recommending a public censorship just as he did with Article One. The amendment was rejected.
Del. Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, urged delegates to reject the article, saying the punishment should meet the crime.
“We’re going down a bad road, folks,” Sponaugle said.
The delegate added that Davis’ spending was cleared by the Judicial Investigation Commission and passing this article would be harming an "innocent justice."
Del. Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, recommended delegates vote against the article, saying Davis did not violate her oath to the constitution.
By a vote of 62 to 34, House members approved Article Four, which accuses Davis and Workman of wrongfully approving the overpayment of senior- status judges during their tenure as chief justices.
An amendment to Article Four sponsored by Del. John Shott, R-Mercer, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, changes some language in the article. The amendment was adopted.
House members OK'd by a vote of 61 to 35 Article 5 against Davis, regarding the overpayment of senior-status judges when she was chief justice.
Article 6, which focuses on Workman's overpayment of senior-status judges, was passed by a vote of 63-34.
Lawmakers, by a vote of 51-45, OK'd Article 7 against Loughry that deals with overpayment of senior-status judges when he was chief justice.
By a 96 to 0 vote, the House passed Article 8 against Loughry, which dealt with his use of a state vehicle and fuel purchase card.
Article 9 was approved by the House unanimously 96-0. It focused on Loughry's use of a state government computer and hardware for personal use.
The House OK'd Article 10, which focuses on Loughry's lying under oath to the House Finance Committee, by a 94 to 2 vote.
The West Virginia House of Delegates will be making history Monday as members weigh 14 proposed articles of impeachment against the four remaining justices on the state Supreme Court.
House Resolution 202 was adopted Monday morning so each article could be discussed and voted on individually. Articles of impeachment are accusations.
The House Judiciary Committee met nine times between July 11 and Aug. 7 to gather and review evidence to propose articles of impeachment. Last week on Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee passed 14 of 16 proposed articles of impeachment. The proposed articles include allegations of lavish spending, misusing state resources and failing to properly administer the court.
Justice Allen Loughry, who is currently suspended from the court and was indicted on 23 federal charges, faces eight proposed articles of impeachment. Justices Margaret Workman and Robin Davis each face four proposed articles of impeachment, and Justice Beth Walker faces two proposed articles of impeachment.
House Judiciary Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer, said Monday during the nine times it met, the committee tried to keep the theme of whether the trust and confidence the state’s founders placed in the justices were violated.
“This is indeed a sad day, certainly no cause for anybody to celebrate while we are here, but it is our duty and I think the public demands it, that we follow up on our duty,” Shott said.
Shott explained Article 1, which deals with suspended justice Loughry’s spending on office renovations.
View the full House resolution in the document embedded below.
Del. Tom Fast, R-Fayette, recommended amending the first article. There are 10 amendments pending for HR 202. Article 1 was the first discussed Monday. The House rejected the amendment of Article 1 with a vote of 91-5.
“The numbers we are seeing here for these renovations of office are extravagant, but how do we know what is extravagant,” Fast said. “To what degree?”
Fast advised the House to question what was necessary and what was excessive.
Fast said the Article 1 amendment recommends a public censorship.
“We are adding to it a recommended punishment of public censorship versus any other option that the Senate would have,” Fast said.
The office Loughry worked was renovated with an estimated cost of $363,000. Renovations to the office was completed between April 2013 and September 2013.
Fast explained that public censorship is a “statement of doom to what has happened.”
“It still is an impeachment, it simply carries with it a recommendation of this body,” Fast said. “Right now, (the Supreme Court) is an equal body of government that is in charge of spending its money.”
Del. Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, asked for the amendment to Article 1 be rejected. Del. Mike Folk, R-Berkeley, also questioned Fast on the amendment.
“Where is the threshold that’s too much spending,” Folk said. “I think everybody that’s listening out there today will construe some of the spending that took place over there is way over the top. We need to approve the article as it is written and not muddy the waters with an amendment like this.”
Del. Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, questioned where House Speaker Tim Armstead is, as his vote is marked as an absence. Del. John Overington is presiding over the House in Armstead’s absence.
Armstead had previously released a statement stating he is considering the possibility of running for a seat on the West Virginia Supreme Court, though he had not decided whether he would seek the position or not.
“As the Legislature begins the process of considering possible impeachment proceedings related to members of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, it is important that this process be free from any appearance of bias,” Armstead said in the statement.
Del. Chad Lovejoy, D-Cabell, said if mass impeachment occurs, the House may be violating the separation of powers clause.
“When we go in and take out 4 of them, based on spending, make no mistake, we are eliminating a separate branch of government.”
Lovejoy warned the delegates on impeaching justices who acted within their constitutional authority.
“Be careful in forming a weapon that it may someday come back to haunt you,” Lovejoy said.
Lovejoy suggested removal of the justices be up to the 1,077,772 registered voters of West Virginia.
Del. Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, and Del.Marshall Wilson, R-Berkeley, questioned the morality of Lovejoy’s suggestion.