The Senate convened Tuesday morning for a pre-trail hearing on the impeachment of Supreme Court Justices, mostly over lavish spending on court office renovations that ran into the millions.
Justice Paul Farrell was presiding and the senators were sworn-in as jurors.
Then came a surprise proposal, to censure Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justice Beth Walker, instead of removing them from office.
“We have had discussions with Justice Workman, Justice Walker, who are also included in Article 14, but we believe are less culpable. Not blameless as I indicated, but less culpable,” says Delegate John Shott, (R-Mercer), Chairman House Judiciary Committee.
“She cares deeply about the court, about that third branch of government and is acutely aware of the damage these events have done,” said Ben Bailey, Attorney for Chief Justice Workman.
That was a House resolution, and the Senate refused to even consider it, since members had not heard any evidence yet.
While Justice Menis Ketchum retired in July, the other four current or retired Justices will now face a Senate trial.
“The Senators I talked to throughout this process, have made the decision to wait until evidence is presented because we are having to make a decision based purely on that evidence,” said Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, (R-Ohio).
“Basically we’re just going to be fair an impartial and listen to the evidence and see where the evidence goes. It’s really a simple process,” said Senator Mike Woefel, (D-Cabell).
The option of censuring Justices could still come back, but for now the answer is no.
If the State Senate gets to an impeachment trial it will be the first one in West Virginia since 1875, 143 years ago.
The trial dates for the justices have been set.
Justice Walker’s will take place on October 1.
Justice Workman will be on October 15.
Former Justice Davis’ trial will be on October 29.
Justice Allen Loughry’s will take place on November 12.
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