Workman files motions for trial next week

CHARLESTON — Lawyers for the chief justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals have filed a number of motions to slow or stop the impeachment trial process.

In a connected matter, circuit judges have been appointed to hear a petition from Chief Justice Margaret Workman to stop the impeachment trial process altogether.

Attorneys for Workman, who faces three articles of impeachment, filed 12 motions to dismiss the articles of impeachment, as well as a motion to reschedule the trial from Oct. 15 until after the Nov. 6 election.

“The scope and nature of the negative publicity which has attended every aspect of this case has created a prejudicial environment, especially in light of the upcoming election, which threatens (Workman’s) right to a fair and impartial impeachment trial,” wrote Workman lead counsel Benjamin Bailey in his motion.

Bailey originally agreed to the Oct. 15 trial date during a pre-trial hearing Sept. 11. This was shortly after Workman and Justice Beth Walker attempted to make a deal with impeachment managers from the House of Delegates to dismiss the articles of impeachment against them in return for a censure resolution and agreement to take responsibility and agree to reforms.

The Senate chose to reject that deal when it didn’t take up the resolution.

Workman is charged two impeachment articles with the overpayment of 10 senior status judges over statutory limits set in state code. Workman also is charged – along with the remainder of the sitting justices – in an impeachment article with not implementing policies to control spending, inventory, travel use of state property and taxable benefits.

Together, Justices Workman, Walker, Allen Loughry and former Justice Robin Davis, who resigned after the House of Delegates handed down articles of impeachment against her, were charged in 11 articles of impeachment.

Workman’s attorneys for the impeachment trial filed two motions to dismiss impeachment article 11, which charges all four justices with maladministration. The first motion places blame on former court administrator Steve Canterbury for the poor management of the court, while the second motion argues that the term “maladministration” appears nowhere in the impeachment article. Seven motions then seek to dismiss parts of article 11 individually

Another set of motions are aimed at the senior status judge overpayment issue. The first motion says the law being relied upon for the article is too vague, while the second said Workman did not intentionally seek to violate the law.

“Impeachment cannot lie for an honest, non-catastrophic mistake, or for an official act or omission amounting to ordinary lack of care,” the motion said. “No evidence has been produced that (Workman) intended any violation.”

While Workman is fighting the impeachment charges in the senate, she is also trying to invalidate the impeachment process through the court system. Last week, Workman filed a petition with the state supreme court ordering the senate to halt the impeachment process.

Cabell County Circuit Judge Paul Farrell –  who was appointed to fill in for Loughry, who was suspended from the bench while he faces a 25-count federal indictment – is serving as acting chief justice of the impeachment trials. He recused himself, as did Walker, who is preparing for her impeachment trial set for Monday, Oct. 1.

Farrell appointed former justice Thomas McHugh as acting chief justice, but he recused himself and appointed Harrison County Circuit Judge James Matish instead. Matish announced Monday afternoon that Hancock County Circuit Judge Ronald Wilson, Kanawha County Circuit Judge Duke Bloom, McDowell County Circuit Judge Rudolph Murensky and Upshur County Circuit Judge Jacob Reger would serve as acting justices to hear Workman’s petition.

The Senate has until Oct. 3 to file a response to Workman’s petition.