Ex-West Virginia justice blames impeachment on gender bias

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — An impeached former West Virginia Supreme Court justice has filed a federal lawsuit accusing elected officials of gender bias and other violations.

Former Justice Robin Davis’ 40-page lawsuit filed Wednesday said she would not have been impeached “had she not been a woman.” It seeks to halt her upcoming impeachment trial in the state Senate.

The lawsuit names Gov. Jim Justice and multiple legislators as defendants.

The impeachments stemmed from questions involving renovations to the justices’ offices. Those questions evolved into accusations of corruption, incompetence and neglect of duty. Democratic lawmakers, who hold minorities in the House and Senate, have characterized the impeachments as an unprecedented power grab by the GOP.

Justice Menis Ketchum, a Democrat, resigned before the Republican-led House of Delegates voted to impeach the remaining four justices. Davis, also a Democrat, then resigned in time to trigger an election for the remainder of her term. She and three others await Senate trials starting next month: Allen Loughry, who is suspended, and Margaret Workman and Beth Walker.

The lawsuit says the impeachments enabled the governor to replace elected justices “with Republican men and create a ‘conservative court’ for years to come.” U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins and former House Speaker Tim Armstead have been appointed as interim justices until a Nov. 6 special election.

Davis’ lawsuit also alleges the House violated the constitutional separation of powers by adopting the “invalid” and “unsupported” impeachment articles. It says a Judiciary Investigation Commission previously dismissed code of judicial conduct complaints against her, Workman and Walker.

Davis was impeached for $500,000 in office renovations, mostly for construction costs. There also was $28,000 spent for rugs, $23,000 in design services and an $8,100 desk chair.

Davis and others also were impeached for their roles in allowing senior status judges to be paid higher than allowed wages and for abusing their authority for failing to control office expenses and not maintaining policies over matters such as state vehicles, working lunches and the use of office computers at home.

Meanwhile, Workman has asked the state Supreme Court to halt her upcoming Senate trial. A panel of temporary justices has been appointed to hear the case.

The governor’s office declined comment on Davis’ lawsuit. Republican Delegates Michael Folk and Pat McGeehan say Workman and Davis are trying to obstruct the Legislature’s impeachment duty.

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.