CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The first West Virginia Supreme Court justice to go on trial in an impeachment scandal is looking forward to explaining her decisions since taking office.
Justice Beth Walker’s trial is set to start Monday in the state Senate. Senators are serving as jurors with several members of the House of Delegates serving as prosecutors.
Four justices were impeached by the House in August. The cases targeted spending, including renovations to the justices’ offices, and also raised questions about corruption, incompetence and neglect of duty earlier this decade.
In a statement after her impeachment last month, Walker said she takes “full responsibility” for her actions and she will “look forward to explaining those actions and decisions before the State Senate.”
Walker, who joined the court in 2017, said she has been committed to greater transparency and accountability in the judicial branch and agreed that “expenditures prior to my election were ill-advised, excessive and needed greater oversight.”
Some Democrats have criticized the impeachment moves as a power grab by majority Republican lawmakers, strategically timed to allow GOP Gov. Jim Justice to name their temporary replacements.
The House impeached Walker and justices Robin Davis, Margaret Workman and Allen Loughry on a charge of abusing their authority. It said they failed to control office expenses, including more than $1 million in renovations to their individual offices, and not maintaining policies over matters such as working lunches and the use of state vehicles and office computers at home.
Walker’s attorneys have said the charge is a “catch-all” that purports to hold her responsible for overall court policies. Her attorneys point out she has never served as chief justice.
It’s the only impeachment count Walker faces. The House chose not to impeach her for spending $131,000 on office renovations, far less than what some other justices spent.
Trials also are set later this month for Workman and Davis and next month for Loughry, whose federal trial on a 25-count indictment is set to start this week. The federal indictment alleges, in part, that Loughry repeatedly lied about using his office for personal gain.
Lawmakers approved a total of seven impeachment articles against Loughry, four against Davis and three against Workman.
A fifth justice, Menis Ketchum, resigned before the impeachment proceedings began.
Davis announced her retirement shortly after her impeachment. The Senate rejected a resolution that would have dropped charges against her.
U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins and former House Speaker Tim Armstead have been appointed to serve as temporary justices until a Nov. 6 special election to replace Ketchum and Davis. Jenkins and Armstead are among 20 total candidates seeking those seats.
By JOHN RABY
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