AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Today the West Virginia House of Delegates holds the fate of that state's Supreme Court in its hands. Legislators are deciding whether or not to impeach all four remaining state Supreme Court justices. The allegations - lavish spending on court office renovations, the personal use of state vehicles, computers and furniture and the overpayment of other judges. So far today, the delegates have voted to impeach three Supreme Court justices. Dave Mistich of West Virginia Public Broadcasting is here to fill us in on the latest. Hey there, Dave.
DAVE MISTICH, BYLINE: Hi.
CORNISH: So what have you learned? What's going on at the statehouse now?
MISTICH: Well, we started the day with 14 proposed articles of impeachment. They have adopted 10 of those. One article has been withdrawn. They - the House of Delegates just took a break. They'll be back at 8:15. I'll give you a quick rundown, though, on some of the articles that have been adopted. They target Justices Davis, Loughry and Workman, all three about their overpayment of senior-status judges.
A lot of those articles target Justice Allen Loughry for his personal use of state vehicles, computers. He took some furniture home with him. But right now we're waiting on the House and all those lawmakers to come back into the chamber at 8:15 Eastern to take up an article against the fourth justice, who is Beth Walker. And that one deals with her spending on court office renovations, which the other three have already been impeached over.
CORNISH: I understand the allegations, but how did we get to this point?
MISTICH: Well, this all started with these reports of lavish spending that came out late last year. There was the discovery of a couch and a historic desk that was selected by one of the capitol - the capitol architect Cass Gilbert. That was found in Justice Loughry's home. This whole deal was discussed as early as January by House Democrats, particularly Mike Pushkin. He's a delegate from Kanawha County. He had called for the investigation of impeachment way back then. The session ended in March. They waited until the governor called a special session in June. They authorized the investigation of impeachment.
The House has been spending over a month and a half at this point hearing evidence and testimony. And I should point out that just before the investigation kicked off, the fifth state Supreme Court justice, Menis Ketchum - he resigned from the court in late July before any of these articles of impeachment were introduced. So he hasn't been the subject of this investigation, but the other four have.
CORNISH: The impeachment process has taken upwards of a month, but tomorrow is an important deadline. What's going to happen?
MISTICH: Right, so the governor could appoint the entire Supreme Court. All this comes down to a vacancy deadline at midnight tomorrow. So if there is a vacancy on the bench either by removal from office, which isn't likely going to happen because a trial would have to take place in the state Senate to convict and remove a justice from office - so if it would happen by resignation by midnight tomorrow night, the voters would get to decide, you know?
I should point out that the voters of West Virginia already get to decide the state's Supreme Court justices. So all this comes down to midnight tomorrow whether or not there will be appointments that will allow for someone to be appointed and hold onto the bench until the next election, which is in 2020, or whether or not the governor - or whether or not the voters will decide whether or not these - who the justice will be.
CORNISH: So what's at stake then if the governor decides to make these appointments?
MISTICH: Well, you know, the governor has interests - a lot of business interests in coal. You know, the abortion issue has come up in West Virginia quite often. The Republican legislature took a look at that quite a bit in the last session. So there's a lot of different issues that could be decided by this court.
CORNISH: That's West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Dave Mistich. Dave, thank you.
MISTICH: Thank you.
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