“Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
The truth of that proverb was roundly affirmed this week with articles of impeachment being brought against four prideful, haughty state Supreme Court justices by the West Virginia House of Delegates.
In addition to the votes on the articles of impeachment, the House also passed, by a 95-1 margin, a separate resolution recommending public censure of Allen Loughry, Robin Jean Davis, Margaret Workman, and Beth Walker for extravagant spending (regardless of the outcome of their Senate trial). That occurred hours before Davis announced her immediate retirement from the bench.
Our state Constitution permits impeachment of any state officer for “maladministration, corruption, incompetence, gross immorality, neglect of duty, or any high crime or misdemeanor.”
News reports over the last year and recent hearings of the House Judiciary Committee exposed numerous questionable expenditures and practices by our state Supreme Court justices, including tens of thousands of dollars spent on “working lunches” and the costs of photographs and artwork, plus more than $1.5 million spent on the renovation of justices’ chambers.
House Resolution 202 was comprised of more than a dozen articles of impeachment, each voted on separately and most focusing on extravagant spending by the individual justices for lavish renovations of their chambers. One article cited all four justices for maladministration and lack of oversight. Another related to Davis and Workman’s practice of paying senior status judges more than state law allows.
Justice Loughry, author of a book on political corruption in West Virginia, had the most articles directed at him, including accusations about transference of state property (an antique desk) from the Capitol to his home, use of state computer equipment at his home, use of state vehicles for unofficial purposes, and charges of lying under oath during testimony before the House Finance Committee.
Loughry also faces trial following his federal indictment on a variety of fraud charges. His judicial salary also was ordered to end.
Following this legislative equivalent of an indictment, Loughry, Workman and Walker now will face trial in the Senate, where a two-thirds majority will be needed to remove any or all of them from the high court.
They who sat in judgment will now themselves be judged.