The recent decision by the West Virginia House of Delegates to impeach the entirety of the West Virginia Supreme Court elicited a litany of responses.
Facing impeachment, Justice Robin Davis announced her resignation Tuesday. Justices Beth Walker and Margaret Workman also responded.
Walker said, "I remain committed to my oath of office and to serving the citizens of this great state. My focus will be on earning their trust and confidence and restoring integrity to their Supreme Court. Even though I disagree with some of the decisions of the House of Delegates, I respect their important constitutional role in this process and I take full responsibility for my actions and decisions. I look forward to explaining those actions and decisions before the State Senate."
"In my short time as a Justice, I have been committed to greater transparency and accountability in the judicial branch. I will continue that commitment as a justice and while before the State Senate. I agree that expenditures prior to my election were ill-advised, excessive and needed greater oversight. As an important part of our government’s checks and balances, I will work with the legislature and support their oversight of the Court’s budget."
Workman said, "I was dismayed by the House of Delegates’ decision yesterday to pursue the mass impeachment of the entire West Virginia Supreme Court. I will miss my colleague and friend, Justice Robin Jean Davis, but respect the reasons she chose to retire."
"I am not resigning, either from the Court or from my position as Chief Justice. There is no basis for my impeachment, and I will continue to do the work, both administrative and judicial, that the people of West Virginia elected me to do," Workman said.
"I want the citizens of our state to know that the Court will move forward. The cases set for the fall term, which opens September 5, will be heard and decided as scheduled," Workman said.
"I look forward to putting all the facts before the Senate in the next phase of this process," Workman said.
Later, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer, weighed in.
“We thank Justice Davis for her decades of service on the bench, and for her retirement, which will now spare the state the cost of an impeachment trial against her. As we have said many times throughout these proceedings, this is a sad time for the state of West Virginia, and no one takes joy in this process," he said.
Shott continued, “We also respect Chief Justice Workman’s and Justice Walker's decisions to remain on the Court while she presents her case before the Senate.
Shott said the articles of impeachment do not accuse the justices of failing in their role as jurists in deciding how to apply the Constitution to the cases before the Court.
"Rather, these articles charge the justices with a failure to fulfill their duty to properly oversee and administer the operations of the judicial branch of government. As Chief Justice Workman told the Legislature’s Post Audits Committee in April, ‘We were busy being judges and not perhaps paying enough attention to administrative things.’ That failure in administration has led to the articles of impeachment they now face today," Shott said.
Shott said when the proceedings began, the committee was asked to look at the entire court and each justice individually.
"We followed where the evidence led and tried to pursue it in a nonpartisan way," he said.
“There were no pre-determined outcomes and nobody involved in the process had any idea where it would ultimately lead – and we certainly had no intention to use it as a tool to usurp the judicial branch of government.
“Unfortunately, as we pursued the evidence, it became clear that the state Supreme Court has been overcome by a culture of entitlement and cavalier indifference with regard to the spending of taxpayer money. This has resulted in the public’s loss of confidence in the state's highest court which must be repaired. I believe Justice Davis’s decision to resign, as well as the coming trials in the state Senate, will help move us toward the ultimate goal of restoring our citizens’ trust in the judiciary.”