Senator: Supreme Court justice's impeachment trial should still be held

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CHARLESTON, W.Va.-(WTAP, AP) Update: 1/8/2019 6:00 P.M.

WV Supreme Court of Appeals | MGN

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to review a decision that derailed impeachment trials for West Virginia Supreme Court justices.

House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw says the intent of Tuesday's filing is not to seek permission to restart impeachment proceedings. He says it's to correct legal errors in the decision.

Several justices were impeached in August over questions involving lavish office renovations that evolved into accusations of corruption, incompetence and neglect of duty.

A temporary panel of judges ruled that the impeachment violated the separation-of-powers doctrine and that the Legislature lacked jurisdiction to pursue trials.

The state constitution gives the Legislature the sole power of impeachment. Hanshaw says the earlier opinion "removes virtually all of the constitutional checks and balances we have on the judicial branch of government."

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He admits he's what he calls a "lone voice" on the subject.

But Wood County Senator Mike Azinger believes one of the impeached West Virginia Supreme Court justices should still face a Senate trial.

Justice Margaret Workman was impeached in 2018, along with her fellow justices, amid an investigation into the court's spending practices.

She won a reprieve after acting justices in October ruled her trial would violate the state constitution's separation of powers clause.

Still, Azinger believes Workman should be held accountable, as were the court's other justices.

"We should have Margaret Workman brought down and have her answer for the charges that came from the House," Azinger said in an interview Monday, while previewing the legislatkure's 2019 session. "The problem is, we have a new session and have to start that all over again. But, the arrogance of what she did, I think, should compel us to hold her accountable."

Only one justice actually was tried by the Senate. Beth Walker was cleared, and is now the high court's chief justice.

Three other justices resigned from the court. Justice Allen Loughery was convicted of federal charges, and Justice Menis Ketchum pleaded guilty to a federal charge.