Attorney: Workman case unlikely to be appealed

CHARLESTON — It’s unlikely the U.S. Supreme Court would hear an appeal of a decision blocking the impeachment trial of West Virginia Chief Justice Margaret Workman, her attorney said Friday.

The five acting judges assigned to hear the petition Thursday granted the writ of prohibition, with two dissenting in part, because the House articles of impeachments were flawed on constitutional and procedural reasons.

The state court ruled on state law and the state Constitution and not federal law or the U.S. Constitution, attorney Marc Williams said. Moreover, for the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a stay, the Senate would have to demonstrate there would be irreversible damage from any delay in the trial, he said.

“That’s why there is finality in this decision,” he said.

Attorneys in the Senate involved in the proceedings should understand there would be consequences for openly violating the writ of prohibition, including contempt, Williams said. A point is reached where the decision has to be accepted and “move on,” he said.

“This trial cannot go forward. Period,” Williams said.

Acting Chief Justice Paul Farrell, assigned to preside at the Senate trial, issued a statement saying he is not “refusing” to preside Monday, however, he has to obey the court orders. The court issued a writ of prohibition that prohibits the Senate from proceeding and so he is prohibited from presiding, the statement said.

The status of the impeachment trial is unclear, although a statement from the Senate on Thursday said it will proceed on Monday morning and will appeal the state decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A comment in response to Farrell’s statement was not immediately available on Friday.

Without a reversal or stay of the decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, Workman will not be appearing Monday for any trial, according to Williams.

“The House will be prepared to move forward with the scheduled proceedings in the Senate on Monday morning,” House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, said Friday in a statement.

The House of Delegates in August approved articles of impeachment against Workman, Justice Allen Loughry, former justice Robin Davis and Justice Beth Walker. Walker was acquitted in a Senate trial last week. Loughry was convicted Friday in federal court of 11 of the 22 counts against him.

Workman was cited in the articles of impeachment about the compensation of senior status judges and lavish and unnecessary spending.

Hanshaw said the opinion by the Supreme Court on Friday “interjected unnecessary confusion where none had to be.”

“A strict reading of (Thursday’s) opinion removes all checks and balances on the judicial branch of government. Clearly, that result cannot stand as law in West Virginia,” he said.

The three branches of government must recognize the constitutional authority of the other branches, he said.

“No act by any branch can negate the clear authority of the others, no matter the circumstances,” Hanshaw said.