By Tyler Bauer
There’s an old saying that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
This appears to be the case among four West Virginia Supreme Court justices. This past week, the West Virginia House of Delegates approved articles of impeachment against justices Allen Loughry, Margaret Workman, Robin Davis, and Elizabeth Walker. These four will now face an impeachment trial before the West Virginia Senate.
These justices weren’t impeached for taking bribes, or for misapplying laws, or anything related to their jobs. Instead, they were impeached for allegedly abusing their public vehicles and credit cards, spending millions to renovate their chambers, overpaying senior status judges, and failing to properly carry out their administrative duties. (You can read the full articles of impeachment here.)
While these certainly aren’t the most exciting impeachment cases, they do teach a valuable lesson. Misconduct by politicians and government officials rarely, if ever, comes in the form of an exciting tabloid scandal. Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon are the exceptions to the rule.
Usually, misconduct comes in the form of a misappropriation of government resources and other (somewhat boring) abuses of power. The number of politicians, judges, and bureaucrats who are reckless with their credit cards is much larger than the number of politicians, judges, and bureaucrats who sexually harass their subordinates or cover up a break-in at the Watergate office complex.
Assuming the allegations are true, the justices involved should be convicted and removed from office. However, it will be difficult to convict the justices because, in the state of West Virginia, a conviction in an impeachment trial requires two-thirds of the West Virginia Senate to vote to convict the accused. That being said, I expect the justices to be narrowly convicted, because these allegations are simply too damning to go unpunished.
One of the accused, Robin Davis, has already announced her resignation, so she will not face a trial. This is by no means indicative of the other three justices’ guilt, but I think it’s a sign that the other three justices are most likely guilty.