Sofa v. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

Theres a story here. You may want to sit down, just not on a $30,000 dollar sofa.

Over the past two weeks, four out of the five members of the West Virginia Supreme Court have been on trial after being impeached by the state’s House of Delegates on charges of corruption, negligence of duty, and other high crimes in mid-August. The fifth member of the five member court resigned before the impeachment vote was held.

That means in the eyes of the West Virginia House of Delegates, the remaining four members of the state’s Supreme Court committed crimes or abuses punishable by removal from office. Overall, 11 charges were approved against the entire remaining bench – including excessive spending and paying the judges more than the law allows.

Over the past 25 years, there have only been two state judges formally impeached nationwide. West Virginia has now tripled that figure in one year. The idea that a state governing body was able to formally charge one sitting judge, let alone the entire sitting bench for a whole state, is a historical first.

No Georgia Supreme Court Justice has ever been impeached and only one United States Supreme Court Justice, Samuel Chase in 1804, has been impeached. Justice Chase was later acquitted by the Senate.

 From left to right: West Virginia Supreme Court justices Robin David, Allen Loughry, Beth Walker, and Margaret Workman.  Photo credit: Associated Press.

From left to right: West Virginia Supreme Court justices Robin David, Allen Loughry, Beth Walker, and Margaret Workman.

Photo credit: Associated Press.

The excessive spending by the justices included one Justice spending more than a half of a million dollars to renovate her office and another Justice spending $32,000 on an office sofa. A third Justice is already under criminal investigation for misusing state vehicles and moving his office desk to his home.

Some are calling this political maneuvering, but it is worth noting that both Democratic and Republican justices have been placed on trial by the West Virginia Senate. How these judges are replaced is a matter of controversy, as the deadline for special elections expired shortly before the House of Delegates voted to impeach. In the interim, West Virginia’s Governor can appoint replacements until elections occur again in 2020. West Virginia elects Supreme Court justices for a 12 year term.

You can read more about the basis for the trial at the 'Consitution Center' blog linked above. West Virginia Metro News also has a comprehensive and current status of all the justices on trial.