AP NEWS

Senate approval of W.Va. Supreme Court appointments sought

January 14, 2019

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A resolution introduced in the West Virginia Legislature seeks to require that Supreme Court justice appointments by the governor be confirmed by the Senate.

The resolution introduced in the Senate on Monday was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Republican Patricia Rucker is the lead sponsor. If approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate and House of Delegates, it would place a constitutional amendment before voters.

State code allows the governor to appoint temporary justices to the court upon a vacancy until a special election can be held.

Last year Republican Gov. Jim Justice appointed two GOP lawmakers to the court after justices Robin Davis and Menis Ketchum resigned. Ex-House Speaker Tim Armstead and former Congressman Evan Jenkins then were elected by voters in November.

Justice also appointed Raleigh County Circuit Judge John Hutchison to fill the seat of convicted former Justice Allen Loughry. Hutchison will serve until a 2020 election.

Judicial elections in West Virginia became nonpartisan in 2016, but the court’s impeachment scandal stirred political attacks. Some Democrats argued the court’s shakeup was a power grab by Republicans.

Davis, Loughry and justices Margaret Workman and Beth Walker were impeached in August over questions involving lavish office renovations that evolved into accusations of corruption, incompetence and neglect of duty. Some of the justices were accused of abusing their authority by failing to rein in excessive spending.

Walker was cleared of an impeachment charge at her Senate trial in October.

A week later a temporary panel of justices ruled that the impeachment efforts were a violation of the separation-of-powers doctrine and that the Legislature lacked jurisdiction to pursue the trials. The process was officially derailed when the presiding judge didn’t show up to Workman’s Senate trial because of the decision.

Loughry and Ketchum were convicted in federal court and await sentencing this month.

The resolution also is sponsored by Republican Sens. Mike Azinger, Sue Cline, Greg Boso and Eric Tarr.