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UPDATE: Senate adjourns without a decision on Justice Workman's impeachment trial

Chief Justice Margaret Workman addresses lawmakers over an audit of Supreme Court spending.
Chief Justice Margaret Workman addresses lawmakers over an audit of Supreme Court spending.(WSAZ)
Published: Sep. 21, 2018 at 3:37 PM EDT
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UPDATE 10/15/18 @ 12:47 p.m.

Despite an attempt to block an impeachment trial from happening, the state Senate still met Monday. They had to discuss whether or not West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Margaret Workman will face a trial at all.

Keep in mind, this is unfamiliar territory for West Virginia lawmakers. It's historic just to have a state Supreme Court justice facing impeachment.

Monday's session came and went quickly and without a decision. They did spend time debating their options after the presiding Supreme Court granted Workman's petition to block the impeachment trial.

After exploring possible next steps, Majority Leader Ferns moved the Senate stand adjourned until subsequently called by the president. Vote: 29 yea, 1 nay, 1 absent. The nay was Sen. Mike Romano (D-Harrison.)

So senators departed, with the likelihood that attorneys for the Senate will ask for a reconsideration of some aspects of the Supreme Court’s ruling that blocked Justice Workman’s impeachment trial.


UPDATE 10/15/18 @ 10:35 a.m.

Despite an attempt to block an impeachment trial from happening, the state Senate decided to gavel in Monday morning. It's now a question of whether or not West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Margaret Workman will face a trial at all.

A group of judicial stand-ins granted a petition to block her impeachment trial. Five acting justices on the Supreme Court ruled in the opinion issued Thursday that the prosecution of Workman in the state Senate would violate the state constitution's separation of powers clause. Workman had filed the petition against the state Senate and its leaders, acting as the court of impeachment.

The impeachment trial for Workman was set for 9:30 Monday.

One major obstacle, our media partner WV MetroNews reports, is that the state Constitution requires a presiding officer designated by the Supreme Court for an impeachment trial. Judge Paul Farrell, who has been serving in that role, has stated that the acting court’s order will prevent him from continuing.

The Senate decided to go ahead and meet Monday morning because senators adjourned until that date after the impeachment trial of Justice Beth Walker. But plowing ahead with a trial for Workman will be impossible under current circumstances, Senate President Mitch Carmichael said.

“We always knew that we had to go into session on Monday but as far as conducting a trial it’s going to be basically impossible to do without a judge,” Carmichael told The Register-Herald.

Senators are currently debating how they should move forward.

UPDATE 10/11/18 @ 4:10 p.m.

A group of judicial stand-ins has granted a petition sought by West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Margaret Workman to block her upcoming impeachment trial.

Five acting justices on the Supreme Court ruled in an opinion issued Thursday that the prosecution of Workman in the state Senate would violate the state constitution's separation of powers clause.

Workman had filed the petition against the state Senate and its leaders, acting as the court of impeachment. Her impeachment trial had been set to start in the chamber next Monday.

Senate spokesman Jacque Bland says in a statement the Senate plans to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. Bland said the Court of Impeachment still plans to convene on Monday, even though the order prohibits it from proceeding with the trial.


UPDATE 9/24/18 @ 1:32 p.m.

Lawyers for Chief Justice Margaret Workman have entered multiple motions to dismiss the articles of impeachment against her in the state Senate.

Workman also has asked for her impeachment trial to be delayed until after the Nov. 6 election.

“The scope and nature of the negative publicity which has attended every aspect of this case has created a prejudicial environment, especially in light of the upcoming election, which threatens Respondent’s right to a fair and impartial impeachment trial,” wrote lawyers for Workman.

Justice Workman’s Senate trial has been set for Oct. 15.

The first impeachment trial in the Senate is for Justice Beth Walker, Oct. 1.

Workman faces three articles. One is an all-encompassing maladministration charge, saying the justices failed to hold each other accountable.

That article accuses all four remaining justices of failing to establish policies about remodeling state offices, travel budgets, computers for home use and framing of personal items.

The other two articles that name Workman are somewhat redundant. They allege she signed off on a policy skirting state law by allowing senior status judges to exceed a cap on how much money they can make each year when they serve in open courtrooms around the state.

One of those two articles specifically names Workman. In the other, Workman and Davis are named together.

Workman, on Friday, also filed a petition with the very Supreme Court that she serves on, challenging the legality of impeachment proceedings in the House of Delegates and requesting a stay of impeachment trial in the Senate.

One of Workman’s motions to dismiss the articles of impeachment in the Senate reflects the petition that was filed with the Supreme Court.

Workman has separate legal teams for the trial in the Senate and for her motion with the Supreme Court.

Williams heads up the team of lawyers working on the Supreme Court petition.

Workman is represented in the Senate trial by the Bailey & Glasser law firm. Those lawyers filed the multiple motions that hit today.

Motion to continue

Here is Justice Workman’s motion with the presiding officer of the Senate trial to delay the proceedings there until after the Nov. 6 election.

“In light of the publicity surrounding this case, the timing of Chief Justice Workman’s could hardly be more prejudicial,” her lawyers wrote.

“Chief Justice Workman is set to go to trial on Oct. 15. Her trial would conclude shortly before the Nov. 6 election, in which half the Senate will be on the ballot.

“Although Senators, sitting as a Court of Impeachment, will undoubtedly make every effort to separate their consideration of the impeachment case from the effect it might have on their reelection, there is simply too great a risk that electoral considerations will influence them.”

Another motion by Workman asks to better define the article accusing her and the rest of the Supreme Court justices of a variety of acts of maladministration.

The motion notes that the word “maladministration” does not appear anywhere in the article.

The article is expressed to consider all of the Supreme Court justices as a group, but Workman and the other justices face individual trials.

“Without a particularized description of the charges and theories against her, Respondent will have an inordinately short time to prepare to defend herself against a multiplicity of allegations may of which, confusingly, were refuted on their face by the evidence before the House.”

Workman’s lawyers have entered two motions asking for dismissal of the maladministration article.

The first suggests she is being held accountable for policies that should have been overseen by the court’s administrator “without alleging that she caused the acts or omissions by inadequately supervising or controlling the person appointed to that position.”

It continues, “Absent any allegation (and there is none) that Respondent caused the administrative director to engage in such waste or to deficiently perform the duties and responsibilities of the job, she cannot be found guilty of Article XIV as a matter of law.

“Indeed, the uncontroverted evidence is that the administrative director resisted all legitimate attempts by Respondent at supervision and control.”

The second motion says the article is unconstitutionally vague.

“Assuming, strictly arguendo, that Article XIV spews forth a bombardment of facts that, taken together, might sufficiently capture the essential elements of ‘maladministration,'” Workman’s lawyers wrote.

“Respondent is yet entitled to know the specific acts or omissions the Board of Managers intends to prove, and the corresponding portions of the charge to which those acts or omissions are intended to relate.”

Two more motions aim to dismiss articles contending Workman intentionally circumvented a cap on how much senior status judges are eligible to make annually.

One says the law Workman is accused of violating isn’t clear.

“The point is that the statute is confusingly drafted, with terms that are inherently or latently ambiguous and in tension with each other,” Workman’s lawyers wrote.

“Because no adversarial proceeding has yet arisen in which the Supreme Court of Appeals could definitively construe 51-9-10, no one can say for sure what the statute means.”

The second contends that Workman did nothing intentional.

“No evidence has been produced that Respondent intended any violation.”

Finally, there were individual motions to dismiss the individual aspects of Article XIV, the maladministration article.

Each of the motions contends there is no evidence to back up the particular accusation.

View the documents in the WV MetroNews

ORIGINAL STORY 9/21/18

Justice Margaret Workman has filed a petition with the very Supreme Court that she serves on, challenging the legality of impeachment proceedings in the House of Delegates and requesting a stay of impeachment trial in the Senate.

“This writ is not intended to provoke a constitutional crisis; it is intended to prevent one,” wrote the lawyers representing Justice Workman.

Workman, the chief justice, issued an order disqualifying herself from hearing her own petition for writ of mandamus.

Justice Beth Walker also disqualified herself, as did Paul Farrell, a Cabell circuit judge who is serving in place of suspended Justice Allen Loughry. Farrell is presiding over the impeachment trials in the Senate.

Delegates voted to impeach Workman along with the other remaining members of the state Supreme Court on August 13 on allegations that they had overstepped their authority and committed acts of maladministration.

Workman is set for a trial in the Senate starting Oct. 15.

Her petition for writ of mandamus was filed today with the Supreme Court. It names Senate President Mitch Carmichael, Senate pro tempore Donna Boley, Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, Senate Clerk Lee Cassis and the rest of the Senate.

Workman’s lawyers from the Huntington firm Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough have asked for oral arguments.

Their petition contends that the Legislature was actually the branch of government to overstep its bounds when delegates voted to impeach Workman on three charges.

The petition contends the justice was actually fulfilling her own constitutional duty.

Workman faces three articles.

One is an all-encompassing maladministration charge, saying the justices failed to hold each other accountable.

That article accuses all four remaining justices of failing to establish policies about remodeling state offices, travel budgets, computers for home use and framing of personal items.

The other two articles that name Workman are somewhat redundant. They allege she signed off on a policy skirting state law by allowing senior status judges to exceed a cap on how much money they can make each year when they serve in open courtrooms around the state.

One of those two articles specifically names Workman. In the other, Workman and Davis are named together.

Workman’s petition begins succinctly: “On August 13, 2018, the West Virginia House of Delegates (‘the House’) broke the law.”

“On that day, the House adopted numerous Articles of Impeachment (‘Articles’) setting the Petitioner to stand trial before the West Virginia Senate (‘the Senate’).”

The petition then lays out the basics of Workman’s argument:

“What nefarious deeds of the Petitioner served as the basis for these Articles? The Petitioner had the audacity to fulfill her constitutional mandate of ensuring that West Virginia court efficiently serve West Virginia citizens by appointing senior status judges to fill judicial vacancies.

“She had the audacity to exercise her constitutional authority to pass and utilize a budget for the State’s judicial branch. In short, she had the audacity to perform and exercise the powers mandated to her by the West Virginia Constitution.”

The impeachment trials in the Senate are scheduled to begin Oct. 1 with Justice Beth Walker, who faces one article that she failed to hold her fellow justices accountable.

During a pretrial hearing Sept. 11, Senators knocked down a proposed settlement that would have kept Workman and Walker on the court.

Impeachment articles would have been dismissed for Walker and Workman. Instead, they would have agreed to accept censure and steer the court toward greater responsibility.

The proposed deal was presented in the form of a resolution. Ferns called a point of order. He said it required senators — who serve in a dual role as jurors — to assess guilt or innocence without having heard any evidence.

So trial in the Senate has appeared inevitable, but today’s filing may throw a wrench.

Workman’s filing contends the House’s articles seek to punish her “for performing duties explicitly reserved for the judicial branch.”

The filing acknowledges the constitutional power of the Legislature to impeach, but contends that accusations that justices violated the canons of judicial conduct is set aside constitutionally to the judicial branch to determine.

And the filing contends the House failed to provide due process to Workman as a citizen.

“Because the petitioner is a lifelong public servant, the impeachment proceedings threaten the very pension that she has worked her whole career to attain,” her lawyers wrote.

The petition contends the House “never adopted the necessary language to proceed with impeachment.

That’s essentially a parliamentary procedure argument that the House initially stated the articles of impeachment as a resolution, voted on them one by one and then didn’t pass the full resolution.

Workman’s lawyers asked, “Does the West Virginia House of Delegates’ failure to adopt the enabling Resolution render the Articles of Impeachment null and void and, standing alone, meaningless?”

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