Media banned from West Virginia Supreme Court tour; lawmakers object

West Virginia Headlines

Friday morning was supposed to be the day West Virginia lawmakers were to tour the state Supreme Court, to look at all the expensive renovations and lavish furnishings.

You the taxpayer paid the bill for that. But then came a notice that while Delegates were welcome to tour, the public and press were banned.

Reporter Curtis Q: “Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman, can we ask you some questions about lack of press access to this meeting today at the Supreme Court?

“Well, that really wasn’t our call. I mean we put in a request for our group, our committee to tour,” said Del. John Shott, Chairman, (R) Mercer – Judiciary Chairman.

Chairman Shott said court personnel were banning the press, but he welcomed us. We wondered if he had some leverage?

Reporter Curtis Q: But this is a formal meeting of the House Judiciary Committee. Doesn’t the open meetings law of the state of West Virginia apply here?

“There’s a specific exception for an inspection of a project,” said Shott.

Reporter Curtis Q:  We have asked the Court. We have been denied. We are asking you as the Chairman of this committee?

“That’s not within our control.” Chairman Shott added.

But most members of the House Impeachment committee were not buying it. Many said they would not go on the Supreme Court tour unless the press was included. On a vote of 18 to 2, delegates canceled the tour until the press is allowed in, too.

“We’ve heard about the lavish spending. We’ve heard about the $32,000 dollar couch, the ornate floor, the office renovations. Well, guess who paid for that? The people of West Virginia, so they have every right to see it.” Q: Via the press?  “That’s right,” said Del. Mike Pushkin, (D) Kanawha.

“Yes, the press should be in the meeting because the whole state is interested in how the Supreme Court has spent its money,” said Del Charlotte Lane, (R) Kanawha.

And there has been testimony about Justices using state vehicles for personal use, and Justice Allen Loughry moving state furniture and computers to his house.

“That’s the problem. People converting state property, public property to their own personal use and that’s what brought us to this chamber and this process here today.” Q: And so the press should be allowed in your opinion? “I believe so,” said Del. Rodney Miller, (D) Boone.

A pool arrangement is now being work out, allowing three members of the press to go on the Supreme Court legislative tour, with cameras rolling.

As of now, the House Judiciary Committee plans to resume the impeachment hearings, next Thursday at 9 a.m, and we will definitely be there. 

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