CHARLESTON — Supreme Court Justice Menis Ketchum resigned his seat today after months of controversy surrounding the court and ahead of a deadline for the vacated seat to be on the November ballot.
“The governor has accepted the resignation today of Justice Ketchum effective July 27 at the close of business,” said Brian Abraham, general counsel for Gov. Jim Justice.
An impeachment process focused on the entire Supreme Court is set to kick off in earnest today at the state Legislature. The House Judiciary Committee will begin gathering evidence in a broad review of all the justices.
Ketchum, particularly, was caught up in an investigation of the use of state vehicles by justices for personal gain.
A legislative audit revealed Ketchum should have indicated his use of the vehicles on his personal income tax returns but did not.
At this date, a replacement for Ketchum could be decided by voters in the November general election. Aug. 14 is the cutoff for whether a court vacancy could go on the ballot or would be subject to appointment by the governor.
Justice stated, in an announcement about Ketchum, that he directed Abraham to provide necessary documentation to the Judicial Vacancy Commission and other state agencies.
Democrats in the Legislature pushed for impeachment proceedings to conclude prior to Aug. 14, so any vacated position could be on the ballot.
House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, announced earlier this year he is interested in running for Supreme Court and would not be running again as a delegate. He recused himself from some of the legislative activities surrounding Supreme Court impeachment.
Ketchum was elected to the Supreme Court Nov. 4, 2008, and his term ends in 2020. He served as chief justice of the court in 2012 and in 2016.
Gov. Justice sent a letter to Ketchum acknowledging his resignation and retirement and thanking him, on behalf of the people of West Virginia, for his public service during his tenure on the State Supreme Court.
Ketchum spent most of his work life at his family’s Huntington-based firm, Greene, Ketchum & Baker. He spent more than 40 years at the firm, eventually becoming the senior partner.
He became subject of public scrutiny this year because of his use of state vehicles dating back several years.
Ketchum obtained official permission from his fellow justices in 2012 to start using a state vehicle to commute between the Capitol and his home in Huntington.
Ketchum regularly used a state-owned Buick to commute to the court from his Huntington home. Ketchum also took the car to several out-of-state golf outings.
Ketchum had his W-2 forms retroactively updated to reflect that, the audit stated. Ketchum also repaid the state $1,663.81 for incorrect travel expenses.
Brad McElhinny is the statewide correspondent for WVMetroNews.com. Follow him @BradMcElhinny or contact him at email@example.com.