A West Virginia Supreme Court justice has retired, a day after state lawmakers voted to start impeachment proceedings against the full court, accusing four judges of lavish spending that included a total of more than $1 million in office renovations.
Justice Robin Davis, 62, said on Aug. 14 that she would retire, after state legislators accused her of corruption and neglect of duty, including spending $500,000 on office renovations that featured a $20,000 rug and an $8,000 desk chair.
Davis, a Democrat, retired on the last possible day that would trigger a special election to choose her replacement, instead of having Republican Governor Jim Justice appoint a new judge. She accused Republican lawmakers of deliberately timing their impeachment vote to make it easier for the governor to name replacements.
“The will of the people is being denied,” Davis told local media. “I just cannot allow the finalizing of their plot to come to fruition.”
The court has been mired in scandal since June, when the state’s House of Delegates began an investigation.
Davis, Republican Justice Allen Loughry and Democratic Chief Justice Margaret Workman are charged with illegally overpaying senior status judges, semi-retired jurists who handle less than full caseloads. All three, as well as justice Elizabeth Walker, a Republican who was elected in a nonpartisan vote, were impeached for failing to control expenses.
The court’s fifth justice, Democrat Menis Ketchum, resigned in July and pleaded guilty to wire fraud. Voters will choose his replacement in a special election in November.
The majority of impeachment articles that were approved Aug. 13 named Loughry, who was indicted in June on federal charges of fraud, false statements, and witness tampering. He has been suspended from the court and faces up to 395 years in prison if found guilty.
The delegates voted Aug. 13 to have the state Senate begin an impeachment trial. The Senate will now vote on whether the remaining justices will be forced from office.