Justice Workman tells U.S. Supreme Court her side of impeachment

CHARLESTON — Margaret Workman, a justice on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals impeached last summer by the House of Delegates, gave her side of the story in a filing with the U.S. Supreme Court Friday.

The nation’s highest court is considering hearing two challenges to an October 2018 ruling that put a halt to the impeachment trial of Workman and other state Supreme Court justices, effectively ending the impeachment saga that started with a special session nearly 11 months ago.

State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey filed a petition in March with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the state Senate asking the justices to review the state Supreme Court’s decision on impeachment. The House filed a similar petition in December of last year.

Workman filed a petition with the state Supreme Court in September 2018 calling for the impeachment trial process in the Senate to stop, arguing that house violated the separation of powers between the branches and violated the rules set in place by the House governing the impeachment process.

Five circuit court judges were appointed to rule on the Workman petition after the justices recused themselves from hearing the case. Three of the acting justices ruled in Workman’s favor in October.

The decision stopped Workman’s impeachment trial and the impeachment trials for former justices Allen Loughry and Robin Davis. By the time the decision came down, Justice Beth Walker’s trial had already occurred, with the Senate acquitting her in October and adopting a censure resolution.

Workman, through attorney Marc Williams, argued that the state Supreme Court’s decision did not violate the separation of powers, calling the decision a “normal exercise of the West Virginia judicial branch’s power.”

“State courts are tasked, after all, with interpreting their respective state’s constitution,” Williams wrote. “Despite this, (the legislature) distort the decision below as a constitutional crisis and assert that it sets the judicial branch up as its own judge. Instead, in a narrow holding, the (state Supreme Court) determined that the West Virginia Constitution’s Impeachment Clause empowers it to review impeachment efforts that violate other provisions of the West Virginia Constitution.”

Workman’s petition argues that the U.S. Supreme Court should not hear the cases brought by the legislature because it doesn’t have jurisdiction. Williams further argues that the decision was made strictly on the state constitution and law.

“The decision rested instead on the West Virginia Constitution’s Impeachment Clause, which requires that an impeaching legislature ‘do justice according to law and evidence,'” Williams wrote. “This provision has no analogue in the United States Constitution, and the Supreme Court of Appeals found the West Virginia Constitution offers protection broader than its federal counterpart.”

Workman, current Chief Justice Beth Walker, and former justices Loughry and Davis were impeached by the House August 2008 on 11 articles stemming from runaway spending on office renovations and lunches, misuse of court vehicles for personal use, and going around state law to pay certain retired judges more than code allowed.

Loughry resigned in November after being convicted of 11 federal charges related to personal use of state property, lying to investigators, and witness tampering. He is currently serving time in federal prison. Davis resigned shortly after the House impeachment vote but had filed her own suit in federal court to halt the Senate’s impeachment trial. She dropped that suit after the Workman decision came out.

(Adams can be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com)


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