Get sordid mess behind us

We in West Virginia have made history during the past few months. During the next couple of them, we may make even bigger, national news.

One of our state Supreme Court justices, Menis Ketchum, already has resigned in disgrace. He broke the law regarding use of a state-owned vehicle for personal purposes.

Another justice, Allen Loughry, is charged with 23 federal crimes.

On Tuesday, the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee recommended the full House approve impeachment of Loughry and the remaining three justices. They are Robin Davis, Elizabeth Walker and Margaret Workman.

Members of the House are scheduled to meet Monday to discuss whether to impeach the justices. If the vote goes against Loughry, Davis, Walker and Workman, their cases will be judged by the state Senate — which could remove them from office.

West Virginia could become the first state to kick every member of its highest court out for misbehavior.

Articles of impeachment approved by the judiciary committee — sometimes on close votes — do not all involve breaking the law. For example, the justices are accused of wasting taxpayers’ money in a remodeling project of more than $1.5 million. The total, as well as some of the specific expenditures, certainly are outrageous, but that does not mean they are illegal.

Sadly, if every public employee guilty of wasting taxpayers’ money were to be removed from office, the state’s unemployment rate would jump noticeably.

Still, the accusations are serious. They need to be debated by the House of Delegates. Then, lawmakers need to make a nonpartisan decision on whether to forward articles of impeachment to the state Senate.

Giving the process the fair, formal handling it deserves will take time, of course. All sides of the story — and there are multiple ones — need to be heard. The justices need to have ample opportunity to defend themselves.

Final decisions on removal will be made in the state Senate. Much of what lawmakers do in that chamber is reflected only in how they vote on bills that, in most cases, will be forgotten in a few years.

What they will do regarding the Supreme Court will go down in the history books as among the most significant events in West Virginia’s history.

So it has to be done correctly. Our descendants need to know justice was done.

That said, let us hope the process does not drag on unnecessarily. This is a chapter of our history to be gotten behind us.