On Thursday, a group of judicial stand-ins blocked the upcoming impeachment trial of West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Margaret Workman. The reason cited was constitutional issues and errors in preliminary impeachment proceedings.
Workman was impeached on a charge that she along with other justices failed to control their office expenses and did not maintain policies about the use of state vehicles, office computers at home and other matters. Workman misused the authority given to her.
Workman called the charges baseless as they were based upon alleged violations of the West Virginia Code of Judicial Conduct, which is constitutionally regulated by the Supreme Court. The court’s order prohibited Workman from being tried on those charges.
A 69-page opinion that prosecution of Workman in the state Senate would violate the state constitution’s separation of powers clause was ruled in by five acting justices on the Supreme Court.The justices ruled the state Senate, acting as the court of impeachment, does not have the jurisdiction over the impeachment articles against Workman.
A petition was filed against the state Senate and its leaders by Workman, of which the trial was due to start in the chamber next Monday. Even though the order prohibits the proceeding of the trial, Senate spokesman Jacque Bland said the court of impeachment still plans to meet on Monday.
In two other impeachment articles, Workman is accused of allowing senior status judges to be paid higher wages than allowed. To which Workman said the state statute cited in the two articles pertaining to judicial appointments conflicts with a 2017 court administrative order authorizing the payments to assure statewide continuity of judicial services.
The statue was found to be unconstitutional and unenforceable by the temporary justices, claiming the judicial appointments are regulated exclusively by the Supreme Court.
The ruling said, “The Constitution of West Virginia requires the House of Delegates follow the procedures that it creates to impeach a public officer. Failure to follow such rules will invalidate all Articles of Impeachment that it returns against a public officer.”
In August, four justices were impeached by the House over lavish office renovations that led to accusations of corruption, incompetence and neglect of duty.