Letting governor potentially fill four court vacancies poses whole other kind of risk

It was probably just a matter of time.

Many suspected that the House Judiciary Committee would eventually file articles of impeachment against all four state Supreme Court justices.

Tuesday, the panel not only introduced but adopted 14 of 16 articles of impeachment against all four sitting justices after some heated debate.

That would have been all five justices if the other one had not already resigned in late July. He is expected to plead guilty to one federal count of wire fraud later.

Next up, the full House of Delegates — 100 members — will debate and vote on whether to approve these articles.

Essentially, articles of “impeachment” are an indictment brought against a government official by a legislative vote. They are not proof of the guilt or innocence of any of these justices. The state Senate will determine that in trials of these justices later.

Suspended Justice Allen Loughry is tabbed with the lion’s share of these articles — eight of the 16. He is also facing 23 charges in federal court.

The other eight articles of impeachment involve the remaining three justices, Margaret Workman, Robin Davis and Beth Walker which cite lavish spending on office renovations and other use of state funds and property.

This should not be inferred as any defense of any of these justices. However, we are concerned about how they would be replaced if they are removed from office.

Obviously, Gov. Jim Justice would appoint successors to fill their unexpired terms on the high court’s bench. But that raises questions about the governor’s judgment to fill one, two, three or four vacant seats if it comes to that.

We are less concerned with his potential to inject politics into this process than we are his penchant for erratic reasoning and cronyism.

True, candidates must be at least 30, state residents for at least five years and admitted to practice law for at least 10 years. Also, a special election, set for Nov. 6, will fill the fifth justice’s seat. So that should effectively narrow his options. Yet, there is reason to fear turning over four Supreme Court seats to Justice’s discretion to fill.

Allowing the governor to determine these seats without advisory opinions and recommendations opens the door to potentially far more maladministration, corruption and incompetence on this court.

We urge the governor to form a bipartisan panel of state residents to make recommendations to choose from if this bench suddenly becomes vacant.

Judging by the serious nature of the 13 articles of impeachment that were adopted it would appear all four justices may ultimately be replaced.

However, they need to be replaced the right way — in the interest of truth and justice.

And not solely in the interest of Gov. Jim Justice.

Previous ArticleNext Article