W.Va. Senate postpones acting on impeachment trial ruling

FILE - This combination of photos shows West Virginia state Supreme Court justices, from left, Robin Davis on Oct. 3, 2012, Allen Loughry on Oct. 3, 2012, Beth Walker on March 16, 2016, and Margaret Workman on Dec. 29, 2008. The four justices were impeached by the House of Delegates in August 2017. The cases targeted spending, including renovations to the justices' offices, and also raised questions about corruption, incompetence and neglect of duty. Walker's trial is set to start Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, in the state Senate. (Courtesy of the Charleston Gazette-Mail and The Daily Mail via AP, File)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia Senate on Monday postponed the impeachment trial of a state Supreme Court justice after a judge who was to preside over the trial did not show up.

The trial of Justice Margaret Workman was to begin Monday, but Acting Chief Justice Paul Farrell was absent in light of Thursday’s ruling by a group of judicial stand-ins blocking the Senate trial. The state constitution requires a presiding officer’s presence for the trial.

Given that and some lingering questions, the Senate voted 29-1 to adjourn.

Workman won a reprieve last week when the acting Supreme Court justices ruled her trial would violate the state constitution’s separation of powers clause. The acting justices also noted the justices’ due process was violated when the state House of Delegates did not follow through on its earlier mandate to approve an overall impeachment resolution.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump, a Republican from Morgan County, suggested Monday the court should reconsider the House portion of its opinion and that House leaders should answer to the court, not the Senate.

The five acting justices are circuit judges who were appointed after Workman, Justice Beth Walker and Farrell stepped aside from hearing Workman’s case. Farrell had been appointed to hear cases in place of suspended Justice Allen Loughry. Justice Menis Ketchum resigned before the House impeachment vote took place and Justice Robin Davis retired immediately after the vote.

Workman, Davis, Loughry and Walker were impeached by the House in August over questions involving lavish office renovations that evolved into accusations of corruption, incompetence and neglect of duty.

Walker was cleared of an impeachment charge at her Senate trial earlier this month.

On Monday, Farrell granted a motion by Davis to delay her Oct. 29 impeachment trial. Davis also wants the Supreme Court ruling blocking Workman’s trial applied to her own case.

Loughry’s impeachment trial is set for November.

Loughry was convicted of 11 criminal counts in federal court last week, including using state cars and gas cards for his personal benefit, making false statements, mail fraud and witness tampering. Ketchum pleaded guilty in August to a fraud charge related to his use of a state vehicle and gas card related to a 2014 golf trip to Virginia.

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