Former West Virginia Justice Sues Over Impeachment

(CN) – A former West Virginia Supreme Court justice who resigned in August after being impeached by the state’s House of Delegates, sued the state on Wednesday claiming lawmakers had violated her constitutional rights to free speech and due process.

In a federal lawsuit filed in Charleston, West Virginia, Robin Davis contends the articles of impeachment filed against her were “unsupported” and “invalid” and that in any event nothing she did warranted impeachment.

She’s asking the court to vacate her impeachment and to block any further attempt to impeach her.

According to the complaint, defendant Governor Jim Justice, who called a special session of the House of Delegates to deal with her impeachment, and the lawmakers in both legislature who participated, engaged in a “nakedly partisan move” to remake the West Virginia Supreme Court.

State Delegates had already voted for Davis’s removal when she resigned; the state Senate voted to move ahead with an impeachment trial despite her decision to step aside.

Earlier this month, during a pretrial hearing in the Senate, a majority of senators voted down a motion that would have dismissed Davis from impeachment trial.

All of this was done “to penalize Justice Davis [along with her colleagues] for her political beliefs and expression, as well as the opinions she has authored while on the court,” the complaint says.

Although Davis has resigned her post, the ongoing impeachment prevents her from running for public office, and she says, could prevent her from collecting her state pension.

“There are thus strong property and liberty interests at risk when a West Virginia Supreme Court justice is tried in the Senate for an allegedly impeachable offense,” the complaint says.

Davis also claims her impeachment violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, and asserts “The Governor, House Defendants, and Senate defendants would not have convened the Legislature in extraordinary session or pursued impeachment proceedings against Justice Davis had she not been a woman.”

Davis wasn’t the only female justice subjected to impeachment this summer, and one male justice, Allen Loughry, was also impeached.

But Davis notes that Loughry nearly two dozen federal charges at the time of his removal — the women being ousted, including Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justice Beth Walker, faced no charges.

“By entering the Articles of Impeachment against all four remaining Justices on the Court, the male-dominated House of Delegates sought to remove all of the female Justices on the Court — so that a male governor could replace them. And, indeed, Governor Justice’s first two appointments have been men,” Davis says.

Representatives of the defendants could not immediately be reached for comment.

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