We cannot afford to let trials for justices, raft of appointments become political games

If there is any trial strategy at play here it must be one that ensures fairness.

This week, the state Senate approved 34 rules for the upcoming impeachment trials of three West Virginia Supreme Court justices.

Those rules range from the big picture — the ability to overrule the presiding judge — to details such as allowing senators to take notes.

Following the House of Delegates adopting articles of impeachment last week against then all four remaining justices, these cases now go into a trial process.

One justice who resigned the day after she was impeached said she did so to foil an attempt at a power grab by the Republican governor and lawmakers.

She and some Democratic lawmakers have accused the Republican-led Legislature of turning a legitimate pursuit of charges against one justice into a blatant attempt to control the court.

It is true that those articles of impeachment were adopted with one day remaining to allow the impeached justices to resign, providing for their vacant seat to be on November’s ballot.

Yet, though we are not keen on Gov. Jim Justice naming so many temporary and permanent justices (until 2020) to this court, these impeachment moves were not strategically timed.

There were occasions when both parties’ actions delayed the impeachment process in the House.

And though it may sound more than a bit naive, judges are not just politicians in robes and not just political hacks, or at least the vast majority of them are not.

The role of a judge is to transcend politics. That’s why they are elected to 12-year terms on our high court — so they don’t worry about being popular. They worry about what’s legally correct.

Are there any number of instances that disprove that statement? Of course there are.

But if we are to lump the entire judiciary into the political cauldron that is poisoning our democracy — if we deny there is an independent judiciary — then it’s all truly a case of us vs. them.

Our newspaper over the years has rarely argued with court decisions though we vehemently disagreed with some. No, judges and juries are not God but if we are to distrust every judge because of who appointed them or elected them that undermines justice.

We also have to trust that the state Senate will take great pains in the upcoming proceedings to prove that it’s not playing politics with justice, either.

Given this latest stain on our state’s reputation we cannot afford any more political games.

The Senate’s conduct in this trial and the governor’s appointees cannot be anything short of fair.

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