West Virginia Record

Sunday, March 29, 2020

State Supreme Court won't rehear case involving impeachment of justices


By Chris Dickerson | Nov 23, 2018


CHARLESTON – The state Supreme Court will not rehear a case in which it blocked the impeachment trials of four current and former state Supreme Court justices.

The order, issued Nov. 21, says the court’s work on the matter is done.

“This court does not have the inherent authority to recall its mandate and there are no extraordinary circumstances that exist that warrant recalling the mandate,” the order states. “The court no longer has jurisdiction of this matter. Therefore, a petition for rehearing will not be filed or considered in this matter.”


The order was issued by an acting version of the Supreme Court that included circuit judges James Matish, Ronald Wilson, Duke Bloom, Rudolph Murensky and Jacob Reger. They were appointed by Senior Status Judge Tom McHugh, who was appointed by Chief Justice Margaret Workman, one of justices who was being impeached.

The acting Supreme Court ruled Oct. 11 that the state Legislature violated the separation of powers and that the House of Delegates violated its own procedures when it impeached four Supreme Court justices. That ruling stopped the impeachment trials for Workman, retired Justice Robin Jean Davis and convicted Justice Allen Loughry. Justice Beth Walker went through her impeachment trial and was acquitted by the Senate, and Loughry since has resigned after being convicted on 11 federal charges.

Attorneys for the Senate filed their petition Nov. 5. The petition says a rehearing was needed because the original ruling “not well-founded due to misapprehension of the issues, the law or the facts.”

The state Senate argued that the original opinion has misapprehended language in the state Constitution and, by doing so, incorrectly found jurisdiction where none actually exists. They said the opinion also misapprehended the Separation of Powers Doctrine and, in doing so, infringed upon the exclusive jurisdiction of the state Senate.

The Senate also argued the opinion’s “misapprehension of the distinction between promulgated rules and administrative orders sets a dangerous precedent that threatens our constitutional foundation of checks and balances.”

It also claimed the opinion violated the Senate’s right to due process under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as well as the Guarantee Clause of the U.S. Constitution “by undermining the foundational principles of our republican form of government.”

The Senate said the opinion ignored the fact that the state Constitution give sole power of impeachment to the Legislature. The petition also noted that the opinion took issue with how the House of Delegates handled its part of the impeachment process, not the Senate.

“The omission of the House of Delegates from these proceedings, in light of the issuance of a writ of prohibition, raises a Separation of Powers issue that warrants rehearing,” the petition states. “By adjudicating the validity of procedures used by the House of Delegates, this court has clearly affected the House of Delegates’ inherent authority ‘to keep its own house in order’ pursuant to the Separation of Powers Doctrine.’”

The lawyers who filed the petition for the state Senate were Mark Adkins, Floyd Boone, Lara Brandfass and Richie Heath from Bowles Rice in Charleston. The lawyers representing Workman, who originally filed the petition to block the impeachment, were Marc Williams, Melissa Foster Bird, Thomas Hancock and Christopher Smith of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough in Huntington.

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Organizations in this Story

Bowles Rice LLPWest Virginia Supreme Court of AppealsNelson Mullins Riley & ScarboroughWest Virginia House of DelegatesWest Virginia State Senate