Supreme Court Won’t Intervene Over West Virginia Justices

West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Margaret Workman pauses Monday at Boone County Circuit Court in Madison, W.Va. The U.S. Supreme Court is leaving in place a decision that derailed the impeachment trials of three West Virginia Supreme Court justices, including Workman. (AP Photo/John Raby)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it will leave in place a court decision that derailed the impeachment trials of three West Virginia Supreme Court justices accused of corruption.

The case was one of a long list of those the Supreme Court announced it wouldn’t hear, and as is usual the high court made no comment in declining to take the case. Monday was the Supreme Court’s first day of arguments after its summer break.

The case the high court declined to review was a decision by five acting justices of West Virginia’s highest court who ruled last year that prosecuting then-state Supreme Court Chief Justice Margaret Workman in the state Senate would violate the state constitution’s separation of powers clause.

That ruling in Workman’s case was later applied to also halt impeachment proceedings against two other justices who have since left the court: Robin Davis and Allen Loughry. Davis retired after the House approved impeachment charges against her. Loughry resigned after being convicted in federal court of felony fraud charges.

West Virginia House lawmakers had impeached the justices in 2018 over questions involving lavish office renovations that evolved into accusations of corruption, incompetence and neglect of duty. But the acting justices’ ruling halted state Senate impeachment trials.

Workman remains on the court but is no longer chief justice. The current chief justice, Elizabeth Walker, was also impeached by the House, but was cleared at her Senate trial, which took place before the acting justices’ ruling in Workman’s case.

House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw had said previously that the hope in asking the Supreme Court to take the case was not to seek permission to restart impeachment proceedings but to correct legal errors in the decision.

Another case the court turned down on Monday involved a newspaper in Utica, New York, covering the murder trial of Kaitlyn Conley, who was accused of fatally poisoning her boss and ex-boyfriend’s mother, Mary Yoder.

Conley’s first trial ended in a hung jury. It was at her second trial in 2017 that The Observer-Dispatch sought and was denied access to questionnaires filled out by jurors.

The high court said Monday it won’t review decisions that said the newspaper had no right to intervene in the case.

Conley was convicted of manslaughter in Yoder’s death and was sentenced to 23 years in prison.

Conley’s lawyer said prosecutors failed to prove Conley poisoned Yoder.

Turning down an appeal from an Alabama death row inmate, the high court said also cleared the way for the state to execute Mario Dion Woodward.

A jury voted 8-4 to sentence Woodward to life in prison for fatally shooting Montgomery police officer Keith Houts during a 2006 traffic stop. A judge overrode the jury, however, and imposed the death penalty.

In 2017, Alabama passed a law ending the practice of judicial overrides going forward. Woodward argued Alabama’s abandonment of the practice was an acknowledgment that his sentence is unconstitutional.

Woodward can continue to pursue legal arguments against his sentence in lower courts.

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