Lavish court spending in poor West Virginia triggers scandal, four state Supreme Court justices impeached
A $42,000 antique desk. A $32,000 blue suede sectional sofa. A $7,500 inlaid wooden floor map of West Virginia&rsquos 55 counties.
A scandal involving lavish office renovations and other economic abuses by the highest court in a single of the poorest states in America has triggered an extraordinary move by 1 branch of government to basically fire an additional.
The West Virginia Home of Delegates on Monday impeached four justices of the state Supreme Court on charges of extravagant spending and other misconduct, setting the stage for a Senate trial that could lead to their removal.
A single of those impeached retired on Tuesday, averting the prospect of sitting by means of a proceeding that is sure to discover the justices&rsquo fancy tastes in embarrassing detail. And the court&rsquos fifth member retired under pressure last month.
Some Democrats have decried the impeachment drive against the elected justices as a power grab by the Republican-controlled Residence and Senate, strategically timed to permit GOP Gov. Jim Justice to name their short-term replacements.
Republican Delegate John Shott, who oversaw the Property Judiciary Committee hearings that drew up the articles of impeachment, mentioned the court&rsquos spending of a lot more than $three million in office renovations earlier this decade came at a time when the state was struggling so hard it made tens of millions of dollars in budget cuts.
Justice Robin Davis, who has identified herself as a Democrat even although justices are elected in nonpartisan races, spent $500,000 in upgrades to her workplace alone &mdash the sort of money it would take most West Virginians a decade or much more to earn.
&ldquoLike the vast majority of you and a lot of West Virginians, I discover several of these purchases offensive,&rdquo Delegate Chad Lovejoy, a Democrat, mentioned in the course of the House debate. &ldquoI discover them to be outrageous, and I discover them to be out of touch with our citizens.&rdquo
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 17.9 % of West Virginians live in poverty, the fifth-worst price in the nation. The state&rsquos median household revenue is near the bottom at $43,385, or about $14,000 beneath the national figure.
But some Democratic lawmakers be concerned that their GOP colleagues might be exploiting the chance to take handle of a branch of government that is supposed to be chosen by the voters.
&ldquoWe&rsquore taking away from the men and women,&rdquo mentioned Democratic Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer.
Tuesday was an critical deadline: Any justice who left or was removed by that date would be replaced by way of a particular election in November. Right after that, any vacancies on the court would be filled by the governor.
Davis announced her retirement Tuesday rather than face a Senate trial. Most of the funds spent in her office went for construction costs. There also was $28,000 spent for rugs, $23,000 in design and style solutions, an $8,100 desk chair and $1,600 on painting.
Justice Allen Loughry rang up $363,000 in office renovations, like the blue suede sofa the floor map of West Virginia with a different colored piece of wood for each and every county $16,000 for eight chairs $six,400 for window remedies a $two,500 coffee table, and $1,700 for throw pillows.
He also had the state-owned antique desk moved into his home and drove a state automobile to book signings. Loughry, who wrote a 2006 book chronicling West Virginia political corruption, was suspended earlier in the year and has pleaded not guilty to 23 charges in a federal corruption indictment.
The Senate trial of Loughry, Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justice Beth Walker has but to be scheduled.
The retired fifth justice, Menis Ketchum, has agreed to plead guilty in federal court to a charge related to the private use of state cars and fuel cards.
Workman and Walker announced separately Tuesday afternoon that they won&rsquot resign.
&ldquoThere is no basis for my impeachment,&rdquo Workman mentioned in a statement. Walker mentioned she appears forward to explaining herself before the Senate.
Even if the justices escape conviction, lawmakers have questioned whether or not they have the public confidence needed to continue serving.
Below the West Virginia Constitution, the Supreme Court primarily sets and controls its personal price range. A proposed amendment on November&rsquos ballot would give the legislature a lot more handle.
Shott stated the impeachment articles general accused the justices of a &ldquoculture of entitlement.&rdquo
Impeachments in state government are uncommon in the U.S., specifically among Supreme Court justices. Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Judge Rolf Larsen was removed by impeachment in 1994 for voting on whether or not to hear situations primarily based on input from an attorney who was also a political supporter. But impeaching an entire slate appears to be unheard of.
&ldquoThe state of West Virginia has lost self-confidence in the court &mdash the entire court,&rdquo stated Republican Delegate Mike Folk. &ldquoThey consider they&rsquore better than everyone in this state that works a blue-collar job.&rdquo
Published at Tue, 14 Aug 2018 22:30:00 +0000