CHARLESTON – Former state Supreme Court Justice Robin Jean Davis has been served a summons for the upcoming impeachment trial before the state Senate.
Davis retired Aug. 13 on the same day the House of Delegates passed articles of impeachment against her and the three other current state Supreme Court justices, including suspended Justice Allen Loughry. So, she technically still is named in the articles of impeachment and could be tried and convicted.
Most likely, her attorneys or a legislator will make a motion to have Davis removed from the articles of impeachment.
Chief Justice Margaret Workman, Justice Beth Walker, Davis and Loughry each received a summons to appear at a pretrial hearing Sept. 11 in the state Senate. Former Justice Menis Ketchum retired in July and was not named in the impeachment proceedings.
“If you fail to do so, thereafter judgment, upon proper consideration and vote of the West Virginia Senate, may be taken against you for the relief demanded in the Articles of Impeachment,” the summons states.
Managers from the House who oversaw the impeachment proceedings there didn’t think they could remove Davis from the articles without calling the House back into session. So, the managers or Davis’s attorney – Pamela Deem of Kay Casto & Chaney – could ask to have her dismissed from the trial.
New House Speaker Roger Hanshaw (R-Clay) doesn’t think Davis should have to go through with the trial. Neither does House Minority Leader Tim Miley (D-Harrison) nor Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso (D-Marion).
State and federal investigations into spending practices of the Supreme Court has spurred all of the changes at the court.
Ketchum resigned in July before a federal information was filed against him. He pleaded guilty Aug. 23 to one count of wire fraud. His sentencing is Dec. 6.
Ketchum admitted to using a state-owned vehicle and a state purchasing card on golf trips to Virginia, according to a federal information filed last month. He had resigned and retired from the court last month, weeks before the information related to misuse of a state vehicle was released.
Ketchum, 75, faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He is free on a $100,000 bond pending sentencing.
An information is used by federal authorities when a defendant agrees to plead guilty and waives his right to an indictment. An information can’t be filed without a defendant's consent. It also usually means the defendant is cooperating with federal prosecutors. U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart and federal investigators have been examining the state Supreme Court’s spending practices.
Ketchum used a state-owned vehicle to commute from his home in Huntington to the court in Charleston starting in 2012, according to the information. That was allowed by his fellow justices.
Davis resigned earlier this month on the same day the House of Delegates passed articles of impeachment against her, Chief Justice Margaret Workman, suspended Justice Allen Loughry and Justice Beth Walker.
Loughry faces a 25-count federal indictment after the federal grand jury issued another second superseding indictment against him earlier this month. The new charges allege Loughry, 48, used a state vehicle to travel to his native Tucker County to attend a court hearing for his father and used a state credit card to purchase gas for personal travel. In total, Loughry faces 17 counts of wire fraud, three counts of mail fraud, three counts of making false statements to federal agents, one count of obstruction of justice and one count of witness tampering.
He also is named in a 32-count charge from the state Judicial Investigation Commission of violating the Code of Judicial Conduct by misusing state resources and lying about it.
"We've been dismantled in some ways and we've lost some level of confidence and some level of trust," Justice said during his Aug. 25 press conference announcing the appointments. "On a nationwide basis, it's cast a black eye. What we need to do more than anything is repair, move on and show the nation how committed we are as West Virginians to have a solid court and, in my opinion, without any question, a conservative court."
On Aug. 25, Gov. Jim Justice appointed U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) and former House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) to serve on the court until the special election this November to elect permanent Justices. Workman previously appointed Cabell Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell to sit in for Loughry during his suspension.
Also, 20 people have filed to run for two seats on the state Supreme Court in this November's general election. There are 10 candidates who filed for each seat.
The Division 1 seat has two years left on Ketchum's term, and the Division 2 seat has six years left on Davis's term.
Those who filed for the Division 1 seat are Armstead, Charleston attorney Harry C. "Bo" Bruner Jr., Williamson attorney Robert H. Carlton, Huntington attorney Ronald H. Hatfield Jr., Charleston attorney Mark Hunt, Clay County attorney Hiram "Buck" Lewis IV, Barboursville attorney D.C. Offutt Jr., Kanawha Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit of Charleston, Berkeley Circuit Judge Chris Wilkes of Martinsburg and Nitro attorney Jeff C. Woods.
Those who filed for the Division 2 seat are Jenkins, Kanawha Family Court Judge Jim Douglas of Charleston, Lewisburg attorney Robert J. Frank, former state Senate President Jeff Kessler of Glen Dale, Hurricane attorney Brenden D. Long, Wheeling attorney Jim O'Brien, Charleston attorney William Schwartz, Wheeling attorney Marty "Red Shoes" Sheehan, Charleston attorney Dennise Renee Smith and Boone Circuit Judge William S. Thompson of Madison.