Not Off the Hook

Workman, Walker will stand trial

For awhile Tuesday, it seemed West Virginia Supreme Court Justices Elizabeth Walker and Margaret Workman were off the hook.

Earlier this summer, members of the House of Delegates approved articles of impeachment against Walker, Workman, then-Justice Robin Davis and suspended Justice Allen Loughry. They are to be tried by the state Senate, which can remove them.

Previously, former Justice Menis Ketchum stepped down after being charged with federal crimes. Had he not resigned, he, too, would have been impeached.

Davis resigned, too, but not before the articles of impeachment were passed. Her trial remains on the list, though, obviously, she cannot be removed.

This week, senators began laying the groundwork for the justices’ trials, to begin Oct. 1. On Tuesday, there was a surprise development: House members agreed, in effect, to seek withdrawal of articles of impeachment against Workman and Walker.

Instead, the delegates said, the two would admit fault, agree to put new Supreme Court policies in place, and be censured.

But senators refused to go along. Within hours of the House action, they agreed to move forward with trials for all four justices.

In all likelihood, Loughry will be convicted and removed. He has been charged with 25 federal crimes involving a wide variety of misbehavior. The outlook for Davis is uncertain.

Workman and Walker are accused of less egregious missteps. Both are accused of failing to adopt court policies to prevent waste and illegal misuse of taxpayers’ money. Workman also is accused of allowing senior status (retired) judges to be paid more than allowed legally for temporary duty.

Neither of the two is accused of nearly the magnitude of wrongful acts charged against Loughry. Neither is alleged to have wasted taxpayers’ money as lavishly as Davis.

That may have been why House of Delegates members decided to back away from impeachment.

But senators refused to go along with that — and there were appearances Tuesday that some in both parties, Democrat and Republican, worried simply dismissing the accusations would be viewed as a political move. It was pointed out that House members heard evidence against the two and agreed there was enough to merit a trial in the Senate.

So the trials — all of them — will move forward without any rumors Walker and Workman got off the hook through some political deal. We have enough of those that senators were right to reject even the hint of one.

•••

Hurricane Florence, bearing down on the coast, has done what two opponents this year could not: It has stopped the West Virginia University football team.

It was announced Tuesday that the WVU game against North Carolina State University, scheduled for Saturday in Raleigh, has been canceled because of the storm.

Officials of both universities could have waited for a few days to make a decision, in the hope Florence would weaken or change course. That is unlikely; it appears the hurricane will hit North Carolina’s coast hard, moving inland to create hazardous weather conditions in Raleigh.

By canceling the game on Tuesday, both schools recognized that the efforts of North Carolinians need to be on preparing to meet Florence, not on readying for a football game. The state’s resources need to be focused solely on saving lives and property.

It was the right decision, at the right time. Good for the Mountaineers and the Wolfpack.

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