West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Margaret Workman is appealing to the very court on which she sits to delay and potentially stop impeachment proceedings against her in the West Virginia Senate.
Workman filed a petition seeking a writ of mandamus Friday morning in which she requested that the court order the Senate to stop impeachment proceedings because the articles of impeachment aren’t constitutional.
Workman is asking the court to delay impeachment proceedings in the Senate until the case is resolved.
Workman said the articles of impeachment violate the separation of powers in government and that her due process has been denied in the proceedings.
She also said members of the House of Delegates never formally adopted the resolution that contained the articles of impeachment against her and the other current and former justices.
“In sum, the Senate is charged with complying with the Constitution when conducting impeachment proceedings,” Workman’s attorney, Marc Williams, wrote in the petition. “If it proceeds on the articles brought by the House against [Workman], it fails to abide by the Constitution because the articles are constitutionally deficient. Therefore, proceedings must be halted.”
The defendants named in the case are Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson; Senate President Pro Tempore Donna Boley, R-Pleasants; Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio; and Senate Clerk Lee Cassis.
Defendants named in Workman’s petition have until Oct. 3 to file a response. Carmichael did not comment on the case Friday.
In addition to the petition, Workman on Friday filed a motion disqualifying herself from presiding in the case. Justice Beth Walker and acting Justice Paul Farrell Sr. each voluntarily disqualified themselves from the case after Workman filed a motion seeking their removal from the case.
In addition to serving on the Supreme Court in place of suspended Justice Allen Loughry, Farrell is the presiding officer of the impeachment trials set to begin next month in the Senate.
Workman handed down an order Friday afternoon telling Senior-Status Judge Thomas McHugh, a former justice, to appoint a chief justice in the case.
Later Friday afternoon, McHugh handed down his own order appointing Harrison County Circuit Judge James Matish to act as chief justice in the case and appoint four other people to temporarily serve on the Supreme Court to preside in the case.
Workman is one of four current and former justices to be the subject of articles of impeachment that were adopted in the House of Delegates on Aug. 13.
Workman, Loughry, Walker and former justice Robin Davis were impeached in the articles.
In her petition, Workman argues that the Legislature’s impeachment efforts violate the separation of powers of the three branches of government as defined in the West Virginia Constitution.
Specifically, those three articles against Workman, respectively charging her with authorizing the overpayment of senior-status judges in the state and with maladministration, “infringe on the judicial branch’s sole power to control its budget,” Workman said in the petition.
The Legislature can’t cut money from the Supreme Court’s budget, according to Section 51, Article 5 of the constitution. There is a measure on the ballot in November that will allow West Virginians to vote on whether lawmakers may cut the court’s budget up to 15 percent in a given year.
In her petition, Workman notes the articles of impeachment state that she and other justices violated the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct, which regulates judges’ conduct. Workman said the enforcement of that code is the responsibility of the judicial branch, not the legislative branch.
In regard to the articles of impeachment concerning senior-status judges, Workman said the Legislature seeks to impeach her for complying with her constitutional duties to ensure the West Virginia courts remain open and accessible for all.
Senior-status judges are retired judges, who have authorization from the Supreme Court to preside in cases in the event that a sitting judge has an issue that keeps him or her off the bench, including a prolonged illness or a conflict of interest.
Workman said her due process was denied in the impeachment proceedings because she wasn’t afforded adequate notice of the charges against her.
Finally, Workman noted that the House of Delegates never adopted House Resolution 202 on Aug. 13.
HR 202 was the resolution that contained the articles of impeachment.
The morning of Aug. 13, the House voted to divide the question and vote on each article of impeachment individually.
Originally, the plan in the House was to amend and vote on the individual articles of HR 202, and then vote on the resolution as a whole.
In an email sent to reporters after 9 p.m. on Aug. 13, House Communications Director Jared Hunt said House leaders had determined they did not need to vote on the resolution as a whole in order to impeach the justices.