A unique sight at the West Virginia Capitol Monday, as all five members of the State Supreme Court appeared before the Legislature.
It was a joint meeting of the House and Senate Finance Committees, to hear about changes to the court’s policies after a spending scandal last year led to the resignations of three justices, and criminal convictions of two.
The court’s new leader is trying to restore public confidence.
“I think we’re absolutely on the road. We are,” said Chief Justice Beth Walker. “Our fifth Justice was sworn in on Friday, and so now we have a full court for the first time in a little while. All five of us working together as a team, are committed to re-earning the confidence and trust of the public and the Legislature.”
The prior court will be remembered for lavish expenditures on office renovations and furniture, including the now infamous $32,000 blue-suede couch in the office of former Justice Allen Loughry.
Lawmakers are hoping the new Supreme Court will be a fresh beginning.
“The spending was outrageous,” said Delegate Larry Rowe (D-Kanawha). “The public certainly responded with the Constitutional Amendment to have the Legislature take over the budget. I think this is the beginning of a very good relationship in that regard.”
The controversy may not be over. Last year a temporary Supreme Court ordered the Legislature to stop further impeachment trials in the spending scandal.
Now, the Senate Majority and State Attorney General may appeal that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The decision that was rendered by the Matish Court, sort of the temporary Supreme Court, is completely out of bounds. It’s ridiculous. It is a violation of the separation of powers,” said Senate President Mitch Carmichael, (R-Jackson).
Meanwhile, the new West Virginia Supreme Court is set to hear it’s first cases Tuesday morning.
The entire Legislature will soon take up review of the Supreme Court budget for 2019 and for the first time in West Virginia history, the House and Senate will have control over how much the Supreme Court spends.