CHARLESTON — The West Virginia House of Delegates filed a petition Tuesday with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the court to review the decision from October when the state Supreme Court halted impeachment proceedings in the state Senate.
The House of Delegates doesn't want to restart impeachment proceedings against any one individual but wants to restore the proper constitutional authority that was intended to be granted to the Legislature with regard to impeachment proceedings.
The petition is seeking answers to two questions: whether the state Supreme Court's decision in the case violates the Guarantee Clause of the U.S. Constitution and whether the court properly denied the motion to intervene of the House.
The House voted in August to approve three Articles of Impeachment against Margaret L. Workman as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia and a court of impeachment for the Workman was set for Oct. 15.
Workman filed a petition for writ of mandamus on Sept. 21 under the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Appeals requesting the court to stay the Court of Impeachment in the West Virginia State Senate and thereafter issue a mandamus writ halting the impeachment proceedings, according to the petition.
On Oct. 11, the Supreme Court of Appeals issued its decision granting Workman a writ of prohibition prohibiting the state Senate from convening a court of impeachment and adjudicating the House's conduct in composing Articles of Impeachment as unconstitutional violations of the Workman’s procedural due process rights.
On Oct. 25, the House filed a motion to intervene with the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia for the express purpose of filing a petition for rehearing to address the infringement on the state's guarantee to a republican form of government. The clerk returned the petition on Oct. 29, stating that the Supreme Court of Appeals no longer had jurisdiction of the case.
"The decision of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia violates the Guarantee Clause of the United States Constitution as it elevates itself to a supreme branch of government with authority to review the impeachment proceedings of the State Senate and House of Delegates and restrict the rights of both chambers thereby eviscerating the checks and balances of state government and the separation of powers doctrine," the petition states.
The House believes this decision denies the state a republican form of government as guaranteed by the United States Constitution.
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw (R-Clay) said the purpose of the filing is not to seek permission to restart impeachment proceedings, but instead to correct what House leaders believe are serious legal errors contained in the decision handed down by the temporary judges assigned to the state Supreme Court.
“We have said since October that a strict reading of that opinion removes virtually all of the Constitutional checks and balances we have on the judicial branch of government,” Hanshaw said in a statement provided to news media."Our action today is not an effort to resume the impeachment proceedings against any individual, but rather an effort to restore the proper legal and Constitutional authority granted to the Legislature with regard to impeachment proceedings."
Hanshaw said should a future Legislature need to begin impeachment proceedings against an elected official who has betrayed the public trust, they need to make sure it is able to act and not have its hands tied by this defective decision.