CHARLESTON – The state Supreme Court has voted to support the constitutional amendment that would give the state Legislature more oversight of the court system’s purse.
The justices voted Oct. 15 to support the measure during an administrative conference. The vote totals – or which justices voted for and against the endorsement – were not released, but Justice Beth Walker tweeted that she voted in favor of supporting the amendment.
“My commitment to greater transparency and accountability in the judicial branch is unwavering,” she tweeted. “I look forward to working with the Legislature toward better oversight of the Court’s budget.”
When asked to elaborate, Walker said it is court policy not to discuss votes taken in administrative conference.
“But, I can explain my vote,” she told The West Virginai Record. “I look forward to working with the Legislature on these very important budget matters. The voters are justifiably concerned, and we all want to make sure the events that took place within the court system aren’t repeated.
“I am pleased that the majority of the court now recognizes the value of the amendment.”
Also, during Walker’s impeachment hearing earlier this month, she testified that she was the only justice to vote in favor of supporting the amendment in January when she, Chief Justice Walker, suspended Justice Allen Loughry and former Justices Robin Jean Davis and Menis Ketchum were on the bench. Now, only Walker and Workman remain from those five. Evan Jenkins and Tim Armstead are temporary appointments for Davis and Ketchum, respectively, and Cabell Circuit Judge Paul Farrell is sitting in place of Loughry.
Jenkins also told The Record he voted for supporting the amendment.
"I've only been on the court for two weeks, but I'm already working every day to restore the transparency and accountability the public expects and deserves in their highest court," he said. "The voters will have the final say, and that's the way it should be."
Amendment 2 is on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. The Supreme Court budget has been a hot topic for the better part of a year because of media reports of what has been described as lavish spending for renovation of the justice’s offices as well as the use of state vehicles by justices and state-paid working lunches for the justices and their staffs.
The amendment would give the Legislature the ability to reduce the budget of the state Supreme Court by up to 15 percent. The state Supreme Court handles the budget for the state’s entire judicial system, including the circuit courts, family courts and magistrate courts in each of the 55 counties.