Impeached Justice Robin Davis, a Democrat, announced her resignation and accused the legislature of staging a partisan coup against the court. Lawmakers could remove the other three sitting justices for financial abuses.
An impeachment of all four sitting justices on West Virginia’s highest court prompted the resignation of one judge and set up a dramatic legal showdown that now heads to the state’s upper legislative chamber, the Wall Street Journal reports. The charges were handed down by the Republican-controlled House of Delegates, which voted to impeach the four justices for alleged financial abuses. The unprecedented confrontation between the judicial and legislative branches of government now moves to the Senate, which is expected to hold a trial to decide whether to convict and expel the remaining justices. On Tuesday, impeached Justice Robin Davis, a Democrat, announced her resignation and accused the legislature of staging a partisan coup against the court. The four members were split 2-2 by party; a fifth justice, Democrat Menis Ketchum, resigned last month amid charges of wire fraud, for which he agreed to plead guilty.
For months, the state’s high court has faced a widening spending scandal that has led to federal criminal charges against two of its members. Republican lawmakers say the justices exploited the court’s unusual budgetary powers by going on a personal spending spree on the public dime. Legislators say the justices spent more than a $1 million to redecorate their personal offices and furnish them with pricey furniture, including a custom $32,000 blue suede couch, a $20,500 rug and an $8,000 chair. Impeachment articles also accused judges of splurging on lunches, misusing state-issued vehicles and computer equipment, and authorizing unlawful payments to senior-status judges no longer on full-time duty. The remaining justices are Allen Loughry, a Republican who also faces a federal indictment on related charges, Chief Justice Margaret Workman, a Democrat, and Republican Beth Walker. Should lawmakers expel them, the vacancies would be filled by Republican Gov. Jim Justice.