Workman challenges impeachment effort against her

PARKERSBURG — A justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court Friday challenged the impeachment proceedings against her.

Justice Margaret Workman petitioned the Supreme Court to delay and eventally stop the Senate proceedings, saying in the request for a writ of mandamus that the articles of impeachment from the House of Delegates are unconstitutional.

The House on Aug. 13 adopted articles of impeachment against Workman, Justice Beth Walker, Justice Allen Loughry and former Justice Robin Davis. Loughry was earlier suspended without pay, Davis resigned the day after the articles were approved and Menis Ketchum, who resigned in July, pleaded guilty in August to wire fraud in U.S. District Court.

The articles of impeachment revolved around renovations measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars on personal office areas of the justices, personal use of public resources and bypassing the payment cap for senior status judges. Workman was named in three articles accusing her of approving the overpayment of senior status judges in the state and maladministration.

“On Aug. 13, 2018, the West Virginia House of Delegates broke the law,” the Workman petition said. “On that day, the House adopted numerous Articles of Impeachment setting the petitioner to stand trial before the West Virginia Senate.

“What nefarious deeds of the petitioner served as the basis for these articles? The petitioner had the audacity to fulfill her constitutional mandate of ensuring that West Virginia courts efficiently serve West Virginia citizens by appointing senior status judges to fill judicial vacancies. She had the audacity to exercise her constitutional authority to pass and utilize a budget for the state’s judicial branch,” the petition said. “In short, she had the audacity to perform and exercise the powers mandated to her by the West Virginia Constitution.”

The petition, filed by lead counsel Marc Williams of Huntington, names Senate President Mitch Carmichael, Senate President Pro Tem Donna Boley, Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, Senate Clerk Lee Cassis and the Senate.

Statements from Carmichael and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw were not immediately available.

Impeachment proceedings are scheduled to start in the Senate on Oct. 1.

Also on Friday, the court scheduled responses to the Workman petition by Oct. 3.

The petition said the House overstepped its bounds and initiated proceedings to punish Workman for exercising powers provided to the judicial branch by the state Constitution.

“This can not stand,” the petition said. “This court must order the Senate to halt proceedings that undermine the separation of powers principles enshrined in the West Virginia Constitution.”

The petition also said the articles of impeachment violate Workman’s due process right and the impeachment proceedings “pose a substantial risk of erroneously depriving the petitioner of her pension rights” because of the House’s flawed actions.

It also raises a parliamentary question, that the resolution to authorize the articles was never adopted, rendering them null and void.

“Furthermore, the plain language of the resolutions and the analysis of a noted parliamentarian agree that the House of Delegates never adopted the ncessary language to proceed with impeachment,” the petition said.

Judge James A. Matish of the 15th Circuit was appointed acting chief justice for the Workman petition by Judge Thomas E. McHugh, who was temporarily assigned to the Supreme Court for the purpose of appointing the acting chief justice.

The order appointing Matish directs him to appoint four acting justices to preside with him.

(Mancini can be contacted at jmancini@newsandsentinel.com)

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