Another Justice Resigns As Lawmakers Impeach The Entire West Virginia Supreme Court

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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  • Justice Robin Jean Davis resigned in disgrace from the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals early Tuesday.
  • Her departure came after the state legislature impeached every member of the state’s highest court.
  • Spending scandal is the latest in a long history of ethics questions attending Davis’s judicial service.

West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Robin Jean Davis announced her resignation early Tuesday, just hours after the state House of Delegates adopted articles of impeachment against every justice serving on the court.

Her resignation marks the conclusion of two decades on the bench, sometimes marred by scandal.

“We judges weigh evidence as part of our jobs,” Davis said at a Tuesday press conference in Charleston, West Virginia. “Unfortunately, the evidence clearly shows that the preconceived, result-driven mania among the majority party members in the legislature cannot result in a just and fair outcome.”

Her departure from the court took effect on Monday.

Davis and three of her colleagues were impeached in the state legislature late Monday. Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justices Allen Loughry and Elizabeth Walker will now stand trial in the state senate. The fifth member of the court, Menis Ketchum, resigned on July 27. He is expected to plead guilty to two corruption charges in federal court on Aug. 29.

The impeachment articles allege the justices failed to effectively administer the state courts, approved compensation for senior judges in excess of statutory limits, and abused state resources through lavish renovations to their chambers and unauthorized use of state vehicles for personal travel. (RELATED: West Virginia’s Highest Court Shattered By Corruption Indictment)

GOP Gov. Jim Justice will appoint successors to any justice removed from office following the Senate trial.

Local media and state auditors discovered the justices cumulatively spent over $1 million on furniture and aesthetic upgrades for their state offices — Davis spent some $500,000, according to the impeachment articles, including $23,000 for design services and $20,000 for a sectional carpet.

Davis’s profligate spending is just the latest iteration of her long history of ethical quandaries. Beginning in 2002, The Wall Street Journal reported Davis participated in a case from which her husband, a successful plaintiffs lawyer, stood to benefit financially. A legal ethics expert who taught Davis and her husband at the West Virginia University College of Law said the justice should have recused herself from the matter.

The Daily Caller News Foundation reported in August 2016 that Davis sold her family’s private jet to an attorney named Michael Fuller. Two years after the sale, Fuller defended a $95-million judgment before the West Virginia Supreme Court. Despite the possible conflict, Davis wrote an opinion for the court preserving a significant portion of that award.

TheDCNF uncovered evidence in March 2017 that a Florida-based corporate entity funneled thousands of dollars to her 2012 reelection campaign through an illegal straw donation scheme at the behest of the same attorney to whom Davis sold her plane. (RELATED: New Evidence Of Illegal Donations To West Virginia Judge Emerges)

The West Virginia secretary of state opened an investigation, though charges were never brought because the statute of limitations expired.

Still, a defiant Davis cast her service as honorable Tuesday, and accused state Republicans of concocting a plot to pack the court with conservatives.

“The people of West Virginia have honored me in three separate elections by placing their confidence in me as a justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals,” she said. “I have returned their faith by serving honorably for almost 22 years.”

“I encourage each of you to watch this legislative process very carefully and to vote in November,” she added.

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