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Justice Davis Resigns as WV Lawmakers Take Hard Line on Impeachment

West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis has resigned, and the decision about whether to impeach the remaining justices is in the hands of the state Senate. (Dan Heyman)
West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis has resigned, and the decision about whether to impeach the remaining justices is in the hands of the state Senate. (Dan Heyman)
August 15, 2018

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – State Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis has resigned amid signs that the West Virginia Legislature is taking a hard line on impeachment of all the justices.

In her announcement, Davis criticized impeachment, saying it goes against the will of the majority who voted her into office. On Monday, the House approved charges against Davis and other justices, including that they broke a complex rule to overpay retired judges who filled in at state courts during emergencies.

On that, House Judiciary Committee chair John Shott, R-Bluefield, compared the justices' actions to an addict justifying dealing drugs.

"The closest place he could sell drugs to get enough money was a schoolyard next door, so he's been selling drugs to these schoolchildren," Shott said. "But, good lord, he has a good reason – because he was addicted through no fault of his own. All of these types of arguments are relevant."

Impeachment of the three remaining justices now moves to the Senate. Davis's resignation comes just in time for her seat to appear on the fall ballot.

Davis ran as a Democrat at a time before court races became nonpartisan and long has been a target of Republicans.

Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, in minority leadership in the House, is convinced some of the impeachment charges are justified, but he said the court has the constitutional right to manage its own budget. He said he thinks spending charges, such as those brought against Davis, are not sufficient grounds for removing a justice from office.

"I believe that they have acted within their constitutional grounds on regards to the budget," he said. "Now certainly, I disagree with certain spending habits of all of them. But that does not rise to the level of impeachment. It just takes us down a slippery slope."

Justice Allen Loughry faces articles of impeachment unrelated to court spending. He also faces 23 federal criminal charges.

A livestream of events at the West Virginia Legislature is online at wvlegislature.gov/live.cfm.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV