CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia House of Delegates voted late Monday night to impeach all of the justices on the Supreme Court, a decision prompted initially by reports of extravagant spending on office renovations. In a series of votes that frequently fell along rough party lines, lawmakers approved 11 articles of impeachment against the four sitting justices, sending the process on to the State Senate.
Most of the articles involved the chief justice, Allen Loughry, a Republican, who has been suspended since June and is facing a 23-count federal indictment on charges of fraud and false statements. He is accused of using state property for personal use and of deceiving lawmakers, in addition to the charge of “unnecessary and lavish spending,” most emblematically on a $32,000 office sofa.
But the three other sitting justices were subjects of articles as well, and the court as a whole was impeached for not creating policies to rein in the wasteful spending of each other. Two justices were charged with overpaying retired judges who fill in to hear cases, and one justice, Robin Davis, was charged with wasteful spending on her office renovations. A fifth justice resigned in July before pleading guilty to fraud, having taken a state car for personal use.
If the impeached justices are convicted at a trial in the Senate and removed, the replacements will be named by Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican. They would stay on the bench until an election, a period that could last up to a year and a half.
Democrats have described the whole process as a partisan power grab; the Legislature and the governor’s office are in Republican control, while a majority of the justices on the Supreme Court of Appeals, as the state’s highest court is officially known, were elected as Democrats.
“This is indeed a sad day and certainly no cause for anyone to celebrate,” said John Shott, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, at the start of the long day. “But it is our duty, and I think the public demands it.”