Attorneys for the West Virginia House of Delegates said the House attempted to file a motion with the state Supreme Court in a legal challenge to Justice Margaret Workman’s impeachment but was denied the ability to intervene in the case.
The House was the latest party to file a response in the ongoing arguments as to whether the U.S. Supreme Court should consider the appeal of Workman’s impeachment case.
The document filed by the House on Thursday was a response to a response from Workman to the House’s original petition to the federal court, which was filed in January.
The Senate filed its own petition in March.
The federal court, in April, requested that Workman’s attorney, Marc Williams, file a response to appeals from the West Virginia Senate and the House of Delegates even though Workman, through her attorneys, initially declined to file a response.
In the response filed Thursday, the House counters arguments filed by Williams, with the firm Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, in Huntington.
Williams said the House had no grounds to challenge the West Virginia Supreme Court’s ruling in Workman’s case because the House was not part of the court proceedings in the original case at the state level.
Instead, Mark Carter, with Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, in Charleston, said the House attempted to file a motion to intervene in the case on Oct. 25, 2018, 14 days after the court handed down its original ruling in Workman’s case.
On Oct. 29, 2018, the state Supreme Court returned the motion saying the court no longer had jurisdiction in the matter. Carter said that returning the motion was a violation of the West Virginia Rules of Appellate Procedure, which grants parties 30 days to ask for a new hearing after the state court hands down a ruling.
Carter also argued against a point in Workman’s brief, which stated the matter of Workman’s impeachment and separation of powers therein was a matter of state law and not an issue for the federal high court.
Carter said the House is not asking the federal court to answer questions of state law. Instead, the House is asking the U.S. justices to consider the impact of the state court’s decision, “which has eviscerated the republican form of government previously enjoyed by the State.”
In their original appeals to the federal court, the House and Senate did not say whether they believe Workman committed the offenses for which she was impeached.
Instead, they argued that impeachment proceedings only should be affected by the Legislature, saying the House has the authority to impeach officials, while the Senate has the authority to have trials based on offenses named in the House’s articles of impeachment.
Attorneys for the House called the state court’s ruling “a continuing danger” that “eviscerated an important constitutional check among the three branches of government.”
The appeals are challenging a West Virginia Supreme Court ruling from October 2018.
The state court, on Oct. 11, issued a writ of prohibition declaring that impeachment proceedings against Workman, then chief justice of the state Supreme Court, were in violation of the constitutional provisions of separation of power and Workman’s right to due process.
Workman, in September, appointed a temporary chief justice for the case and ordered him to appoint five justices to consider the matter.
Harrison Circuit Judge James Matish acted as chief justice in Workman’s case.
Matish appointed Hancock Circuit Judge Ronald Wilson, Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom, McDowell Circuit Judge Rudolph Murensky II and Upshur Circuit Judge Jacob Reger to preside on the court for the duration of Workman’s case.
Bloom and Reger concurred in part and dissented in part with the decision. They said that, while they agreed with the majority of the court in finding that the House committed an error in adopting the articles of impeachment, it was not the court’s place to correct the error under the state’s separation of powers clause.
That responsibility, the two temporary justices said, belonged to the Legislature.
The court handed down its ruling four days before Workman’s impeachment trial was to begin in the Senate.
In ruling in Workman’s favor, the court invalidated all four articles of impeachment against her and established a precedent that effectively invalidated articles of impeachment against former justices Robin Davis and Allen Loughry.
The court handed down its ruling after current Chief Justice Beth Walker stood trial in the Senate, which voted on Oct. 2 to publicly censure Walker but declined to remove her from office.