West Virginia Supreme Court halts impeachment trial for Justice Workman
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) - The West Virginia Supreme Court has blocked the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Justice Margaret Workman, and the judge presiding over the impeachment proceedings said he would follow the court order and not preside over the case.
In a decision filed Thursday, the court ruled that the three articles of impeachment filed against Workman violate the separation of powers doctrine and the Senate does not have jurisdiction over the alleged violations in the impeachment articles. Workman's legal team filed a petition with the court Sept. 21, contending the articles of impeachment against her are unconstitutional.
"It's been laid upon us by the constitution of West Virginia, and we believe that our process should go forward," Senate President, Mitch Carmichael.
The presiding judge in the impeachment trial, Judge Paul Farrell, said he would obey the court order that prohibits the Senate from proceeding and he would not preside over the case, according to an email from the state Supreme Court.
"If there is something that changes that on Monday We'll deal with it. I know that we have a trial scheduled on Monday, and the people of West Virginia have put in their constitution the opportunity for us to deal with this issue and we're going to deal with it on Monday," Carmichael said.
“We have determined that the failure to set out findings of fact, and to pass a resolution adopting the Articles of Impeachment violated due process principles,” the court’s decision said. “Consequently, the respondents are prohibited from proceeding against the petitioner for the conduct alleged in Article IV and Article VI and in Article XIV ad drafted.”
Workman’s impeachment trial was scheduled to start Oct. 15.
The spokeswoman for the state Senate sent a response, saying the Senate plans to appeal the court's decision.
"We have received the court’s order and are planning to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of Appeals," the Senate statement said. "Pursuant to the authority granted the Senate in the West Virginia Constitution, the Court of Impeachment will convene at 9 a.m. Monday.
Workman was accused in authorizing the over-payment of senior-status judges and failing to properly administer and oversee the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court’s decision was handed down by acting chief justice James Matish, acting justices Duke Bloom, Jacob Reger, Rudolph Murensky and Ronald Wilson.
Workman was one of three sitting justices and a retired justice impeached by the House of Delegates and scheduled to stand trial in the state Senate. The Senate voted to keep Justice Beth Walker in office and instead approve a resolution with a public reprimand and censure. Retired justice Robin Davis is scheduled to stand trial Oct. 29, and suspended Justice Allen Loughry is scheduled to stand trial in the Senate Nov. 12.
Below is a copy of the Supreme Court's decision:
Following are the opinions of Judges Bloom and Reger concurring in part and dissenting in part: