28 Dec 2018

The Saga Continues? WV Supreme Court Drama Temporarily in Hiatus

Travis Britton, Esq.

In our prior blog post entitled “The Current Status of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia,” we discussed the then-current situation of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals following a series of scandals that rocked the West Virginia judiciary. Thereafter, a number of events have occurred, adding to the already extensive news coverage and headlines involving West Virginia’s highest court.

We have provided an update for each of the five Justices involved, providing information as to the current status of each. While some of the action has settled, we have likely not heard the end of this story.

Former Justice Menis Ketchum

Former Justice Ketchum’s sentencing date for his guilty plea to one felony count of wire fraud was postponed until January 30, 2019. He is facing up to 20 years in prison. Further, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, on advisement of the state Lawyer Disciplinary Board, ordered former Justice Ketchum’s license to practice law in West Virginia be annulled. Tim Armstead, former Speaker of the House of Delegates, was elected in a statewide special election held on November 6th to fill out the remainder of former Justice Ketchum’s 12-year term ending on January 1, 2021.

Justice Beth Walker

The West Virginia Senate voted on October 2nd to not remove Justice Walker from office, instead, settling for a public reprimand and censure of the Justice. Justice Walker continues as an active justice on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and will take over the role of Chief Justice beginning January 1, 2019.

Chief Justice Margaret Workman

Justice Workman contested her impeachment and a panel of state Circuit Court judges acting as a substitute Supreme Court of Appeals issued an order on October 11th determining that the impeachment vote by the West Virginia House of Delegates against Justice Workman was constitutionally and procedurally flawed and that impeachment proceedings could not continue against her in the Senate. Chief Justice Workman continues as an active justice on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and as the Chief Justice until January 1, 2019.

Former Justice Robin Davis

The October 11th order in favor of Justice Workman effectively halted impeachment proceedings against Justice Davis as well. Following former Justice Davis’ retirement, Evan Jenkins, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was elected in a statewide special election held on November 6th to fill out the remainder of former Justice Davis’ 12-year term ending on January 2, 2025.

Former Justice Allen Loughry

The October 11th order in favor of Justice Workman effectively halted impeachment proceedings against Justice Davis as well. On October 12th, former Justice Loughry was convicted in federal court of seven counts of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, one count of witness tampering, and two counts of lying to federal investigators. He is awaiting sentencing set for January 16, 2019. Former Justice Loughry resigned from the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals on November 12th. Justice John A. Hutchison, former Circuit Judge in Raleigh County, West Virginia, was appointed on December 12th to fill the vacancy left by former Justice Loughry until the certification of the May 2020 special election.

The West Virginia Senate adjourned their special session on October 15th. However, it remains unclear if or how the Senate will seek to re-open the issue when the regular legislative session commences in January.

With three fresh faces sitting on the bench of West Virginia’s highest court, we will continue to monitor any decisions issued which may impact the future of the oil and gas industry in West Virginia.