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Dave Peyton: Let’s be clear: Supreme Court action is political

August 22, 2018

A couple of columns ago, I quoted the late, great Mike Perry:

“Everything in West Virginia is political except politics, which is personal.”

I introduced my column on the state Supreme Court of Appeals mess with Perry’s quote. I am sure some of you still wonder what it had to do with the high court.

Plenty. Let me explain.

Earlier this week the state Senate began making plans for trials of three Supreme Court judges.

The trials are to decide whether the three remaining judges who have not resigned and left office will be kicked out with their robes flowing behind them.

To understand what is happening, you have to understand that the House of Delegates that impeached the justices is predominantly Republican. So is the Senate, which will try the justices.

Justice Menis Ketchum escaped being impeached by resigning just before pleading guilty to some federal shenanigans.

According to Slate magazine:

“Tuesday, Aug. 14, marked exactly 84 days before the November election (the magic date when candidates could be added to the November ballot). The House passed its articles of impeachment minutes before midnight on Monday, Aug. 13. (Justice) Davis stepped down on Tuesday morning and made her retirement retroactive, effective Monday, so that voters will have the opportunity to replace her in the fall.”

Or will they? Will the Senate say Davis was trying to sidestep the legislators who obviously want Republican Gov. Jim Justice to appoint as many conservative justices as possible to serve until the 2020 election?

Even if the Davis ploy works, Gov. Justice will be able to appoint three justices (a majority of the court) until the 2020 election if the Senate votes to remove the remaining three justices.

But the justices themselves are not without stain. All five of them played fast and loose with the money they received from the state.

Their offices shine with thousands of dollars’ worth of furniture, rugs, etc. In recent years, the justices have spent more than $100,000 for lunches for staff members. They paid big money to retired judges to fill in for circuit judges.

The question is, does all of this violate the rules for judges and other politicians spelled out in the state Constitution. The feds have charged Ketchum and Justice Allen Loughry with lying, cheating and stealing, which goes beyond mismanaging state money.

What if all the three remaining justices did is not unconstitutional and the state Senate says it is? Where will the appeal be made? The state Supreme Court? No. The U.S. Supreme Court, which is currently on summer vacation? Well

This whole state soap opera has been complicated from the beginning. And it seems to be getting worse.

The high-court shenanigans have been known for more than a year. Then why did the House of Delegates move as slow as pond water to impeach them? Perhaps because they wanted to make sure the replacements wouldn’t be on this year’s November ballot so Gov. Justice could pack the court with right-wingers for two more years.

Remember: Everything in West Virginia is political, even in the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and especially in the West Virginia Legislature.

Dave Peyton is on Facebook. His email address is davepeyton@comcast.net.

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