WVPA Staff Report
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Facing impeachment, W.Va. Supreme Court Justice Robin Jean Davis announced her retirement from the court — effective Monday, Aug. 13 — ensuring the people of West Virginia have an opportunity to select her replacement.
Justice Davis issued the following statement:
“I deliver this statement today in dismay, disbelief, and in sadness. I feel profound grief for the state of West Virginia given the current state of affairs. What we are witnessing is a disaster for the Rule of law, the foundation of our state, and indeed, our very society. For when a legislative body attempts to dismantle a separate branch of government, the immediate effects, as well as the precedent it sets for the future, can only be termed disastrous.
Most majority members of the judiciary committee have skipped from one subject to another, irrationally, and without due process of law. The majority party has established a preconception which they bring forth, without regard to the evidence, or the process by which that evidence should be considered.
The majority members have ignored the will of the people who elected the justices of this court. They have erased the lines of separation between the branches of government. In fact, the majority party in the legislature is positioning to impose their own party preferences. The will of the people is being denied!
I just cannot allow the finalizing of their plot to come to fruition. I have always put my faith in the people of West Virginia. The people of West Virginia have honored me in three separate elections by placing their confidence in me as a Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. I have returned their faith by serving honorably for almost 22 years.
I am proud of the opinions I have written as well my dissents. As a point of particular pride, cases on which I have sat as a West Virginia Supreme Court Justice, have always, every single time, been upheld by the United States Supreme Court. It is exactly this fairness of process I would have hoped would have beenappliedtorecentlegislativeactions. But, there is no evidence that has been the case or that it will be the case.
We judges weigh evidence as part of our jobs. Unfortunately, the evidence clearly shows that the preconceived, result driven mania, among the majority party members in the legislature cannot result in a just and fair outcome.
As I said, I have always placed my faith in the people. I return that faith today to the people of West Virginia. Effective yesterday, August 13, 2018, I retired as a Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. The citizens of West Virginia will therefore be afforded their Constitutional right to vote in November and elect the Justice who will be my successor.
I thank my fellow West Virginians for the extraordinary opportunity to have served you. I encourage each of you to watch this legislative process very carefully and to vote in November.”
Today Gov. Jim Justice accepted a letter received yesterday evening from Davis.
“Today my general counsel will provide the necessary documentation to the Secretary of State’s office so that the special election process may begin immediately for this vacancy. The Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission will immediately begin the process of filling this vacancy with an appointee to serve as a justice until the people of West Virginia elect a new justice in a special election,” Gov. Justice said.
Gov. Justice also sent a letter to Justice Davis acknowledging her retirement and thanked her, on behalf of the people of West Virginia, for her public service during her tenure on the State Supreme Court.
The House of Delegates on Monday voted to impeach all four remaining Supreme Court justices on 11 various articles of impeachment, covering a range of grounds from wasteful spending, maladministration, incompetency, neglect of duty, and potential criminal behavior.
Additionally, delegates approved a resolution to publicly reprimand and censure all four justices for the conduct covered by the articles of impeachment.
“This is one of the saddest days in my 34 years in the Legislature,” said House Speaker Pro Tempore John Overington, R-Berkeley, who presided over the impeachment proceedings. “It has become clear that our Supreme Court has breached the public trust and lost the confidence of our citizens. This somber action today is an essential step toward restoring the integrity of our state’s highest court.”
A group of five delegates, to be named in the coming days, will now take the impeachment articles to the state Senate, where Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justices Allen Loughry, Davis and Elizabeth Walker will stand trial on the articles of impeachment.
Justice Menis Ketchum resigned last month and agreed to plead guilty to a federal criminal information charging him with misusing state vehicles.
The articles of impeachment contain accusations ranging from the creation of a potentially unlawful scheme to pay retired senior status judges more than the law allows, wasteful spending of taxpayer funds on lavish office renovations, the use of public vehicles for personal gain, the illegal removal of historic property from the state Capitol, and the neglect of duty to create policies that prevent improper use of state resources and property.
While the four justices have been impeached by a majority of the House of Delegates, the state Constitution requires a two-thirds vote in the state Senate to remove any of the justices from office.
The timing and rules of procedure for any trial will be determined by the state Senate.
The House also voted 95-1 to approve House Resolution 203, which formally censured and publicly reprimanded the justices for their pattern of wasteful spending, misconduct and neglect of duty.