West Virginia politics has been roiled this fall by the impeachment trials of all the sitting justices on the state Supreme Court. The events overshadowed a ballot measure meant to address the underlying issue that led to the trials — how the judiciary spends its funds. Still, the constitutional amendment easily passed.
The measure gives the legislature more control over the judicial budget. Now, any part of the court system’s budget could be cut or eliminated by lawmakers, so long as the overall judicial budget is at least 85 percent as large as it had been the prior fiscal year. West Virginia had been the only state where the legislature had no say over it.
The changes to judicial funding drew much less media coverage or voter interest than the ongoing impeachment drama, or another amendment on the state ballot regarding abortion. “Most of the attention seems to be on the impeachment trials themselves, not on structural fixes to the perceived problems,” Scott Crichlow, a political scientist at West Virginia University, said in early October.
Last month, the state Senate reprimanded Justice Beth Walker but voted to let her keep her seat on the bench, following a two-day impeachment trial. That same day, a jury was selected in the criminal trial of suspended Justice Allen Loughly, who faces 22 federal charges, including mail fraud, obstruction of justice and making a false statement.
In August, the West Virginia House voted to impeach Loughry, Walker and two other justices, charging them with failure to carry out their duties. Several justices were charged with misuse of funds on office renovations, salaries or vehicles and computers. A fifth justice, Menis Ketchum, had stepped down in the face of a federal indictment. He pleaded guilty in August to misusing public funds…