Monday, August 13, 2018

West Virginia Supreme Court gets dragged into the light for exhibiting the kind of brazen sleaze and dishonesty that infests many American courts

Justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court: Loughry (R),
Walker (R), Davis (D), Workman (D)
Update at 11:20 p.m.: The West Virginia House of Delegates has voted to impeach all four justices on the state's Supreme Court. Impeached were Allen Loughery (Republican), Robin Jean Davis (Democrat), Margaret Workman (Democrat), and Beth Walker (Republican). Republicans control the West Virginia House of Delegates.

Headline: West Virginia House panel votes to impeach entire state Supreme Court

When I read the above Yahoo! headline, my first thought was, "This has to be from The Onion. No way it could be real." In fact, the headline seemed so out of left field that it made me LOL.

Is it possible for a state high court to be so corrupt that the whole bunch deserves to be tossed out of office? After 11 years of writing this blog about judicial chicanery, I know the answer is, "Yes, absolutely." Is it likely that any authoritative body would hold such a high court accountable." Sadly, the answer to that question is "Absolutely not."

Stunningly, it turns out, the West Virginia story is real. In fact the state House of Delegates meets today to consider articles of impeachment the judiciary committee already has adopted. If the full House approves the articles, the state Senate will conduct a trial.

This could be a rare step forward for justice in a country where too many courts are permeated with crookedness, dishonesty, and an utter lack of transparency. Legal Schnauzer is one of the few news sites that devotes serious journalism to the unlawful acts of corrupt judges, and we have been attacked relentlessly -- even thrown in jail -- for it.

I see only one downside to the events in West Virginia: The justices are in deep doo-doo for essentially being thieves. I would prefer they be held accountable for the kind of bogus rulings too many American courts routinely produce -- and far greater legal minds than mine agree that is a problem.

What's at the heart of the West Virginia story? The judiciary committee has charged justices with "maladministration, corruption, incompetency, neglect of duty in certain high crimes and misdemeanors." That sounds serious. Here are details, from a report at Talking Points Memo (TPM):

The West Virginia House of Delegates is taking the extraordinary step of considering the impeachment of the entire state Supreme Court in a scandal over $3.2 million in office renovations.

The Republican-led House was meeting Monday to discuss 14 articles and make recommendations for the four remaining justices. Any articles approved by the House would be tried by the Senate.

Suspended Justice Allen Loughry is under federal indictment and named in eight impeachment articles, including allegations he lied about taking home a $42,000 antique desk and a $32,000 suede leather couch. Other articles involve upgrades of the offices of justices Margaret Workman, Robin Davis and Beth Walker.

The fifth justice, Menis Ketchum, retired and agreed to plead guilty to a federal wire fraud count involving the personal use of state-owned vehicles and fuel cards.

Were these grifters also issuing bogus opinions? I'd say you can count on it. Will they be held accountable for that? Don't hold your breath. Such an inquiry would require a lot of work, and it's unlikely West Virginia legislators want to devote that much effort to the scandal.

That's unfortunate because stealing is bad, but the issuance of crooked rulings is, by far, the No. 1 way judges cheat the public, at every level -- municipal, state, and federal. I'm not the only one who thinks so. Consider these words from a 1989 speech by the late Monroe Freedman, a Hofstra University law professor who was considered the father of legal ethics as a subject for academic study:

"Frankly, I have had more than enough of judicial opinions that bear no relationship whatsoever to the cases that have been filed and argued before the judges. I am talking about judicial opinions that falsify the facts of the cases that have been argued, judicial opinions that make disingenuous use or omission of material authorities, judicial opinions that cover up these things with no-publication and no-citation rules.”

-- Monroe H. Freedman, founder of legal ethics

If Monroe Freedman knew the situation was dire in 1989, imagine how bad it is today -- almost 30 years later.

We applaud the West Virginia legislators for taking action against thieving judges. The lawmakers could do the entire country a huge favor by going beyond that to examine the crooked rulings these "justices" likely were churning out.

No comments: