The West Virginia House Judiciary Committee has voted to impeach the entire West Virginia Supreme Court. This vote means that it will go to the WV house floor for impeachment consideration.

Here's another link

Kind of shocking to me, to tell you the truth. Has an entire state supreme court ever been impeached before? How about convicted as well?

  • 1
    The second source is much better. It's interesting to note that (in contrast to the federal process) the articles of impeachment must pass both houses before there is an impeachment trial. This means that there must be two supermajority votes in the senate before someone can be removed from office.
    – phoog
    Aug 8, 2018 at 22:44
  • @phoog Democracy is a beautiful thing, but that's not much different than one house voting to impeach and one to vote to convict if you think about it.
    – user9790
    Aug 8, 2018 at 22:46
  • @phoog - can't think of many who would vote to impeach and then to acquit, though. Aug 9, 2018 at 18:15
  • @PoloHoleSet the second vote would be after the trial, during which new information could come out. The threshold for a yes vote in the first instance can be, and for any ethical person probably should be, lower than in the second.
    – phoog
    Aug 9, 2018 at 19:09
  • @phoog - I realize that. It's more that political considerations and opinions are probably set pretty firmly. Like I said, not impossible, but pretty rare, I'd bet. Aug 9, 2018 at 19:34

1 Answer 1


It's probably safe to answer that with "no", not an entire court. But individual state-level supreme court judges have been impeached before, and sometimes threatened in groups. Quoting from a 2018 review article:

At least three elected officials in Pennsylvania have mentioned the topic of impeaching and removing five state supreme court judges in an election-map controversy. How unusual would that be and are there any precedents?

The impeachment of state-level supreme court judges is rare. The National Council of State Legislatures could only cite a handful of instances in a special website section on the subject of impeachment.

The most prominent impeachment of a state supreme court judge was actually in Pennsylvania. In 1994, State Supreme Chief Judge Rolf Larsen was impeached by a majority of the state House and convicted by two-thirds of the state Senate for meeting privately with an attorney to decide the outcomes of cases.

A research report compiled for the state legislature of Connecticut in 2004 contained several more obscure examples of state supreme court judges who faced impeachment and removal. In 2000, four New Hampshire state supreme court judges faced impeachment threats, and one, Chief Justice David Brock was impeached on four charges, but not convicted of any in the state Senate.

The article also discusses much older cases, but none seem to be an entire court, and in fact the older cases were individual.

And then it discusses the recent trend in group-level threats:

In recent years, there has been a trend for state lawmakers to threaten to impeach state judges for a variety of reasons. A 2010 research report from the National Center for State Courts detailed some of these efforts, including moves to remove judges for their court decisions. Bills were filed in the state legislatures of Massachusetts, Iowa and New Jersey to remove state supreme court judges who approved same-sex marriages. Also in Iowa, another proposed bill threatened any judge who considered the word “penumbra” in a court decision. A current bill in Alaska and a recent one that failed in Kansas would make state supreme court judges eligible for impeachment if they exercised legislative powers. [...]

But if the five Pennsylvania state supreme court judges were impeached, they would face steep odds in an appeal to the United States Supreme Court. The nation’s highest court usually stays out of state constitutional disputes, but such a novel case could also present unique due process and free speech arguments in any appeal.

It looks like the novel case might have finally presented itself. More in-depth article on Pennsylvania case on CNN, but it's from February. I'm guessing ultimately it didn't happen, because if would have been newsworthy, but I can't find follow-up articles right now.

And in a nutshell of the trend...

A March 23 report from Raftery’s group calls the Pennsylvania dispute “the fifth time in seven years that state high court judges there have been threatened with impeachment or removal from office over their rulings.”

In other states, judges have incurred such threats for rulings involving hot-button issues like the death penalty and same-sex marriage.

“These efforts are often meant to send a message to the judiciary that if [they] don’t do what legislatures want [them] to do, [they] could be next,” Raftery said in a telephone interview.

All of the Pennsylvania judges who struck down the gerrymandered map are Democrats.

And in reaction:

The chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, a Republican, spoke out Thursday against lawmakers of his own party who filed legislation to impeach four Democratic state Supreme Court justices over disagreements on the state’s congressional map.

“As Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, I am very concerned by the reported filing of impeachment resolutions against Justices of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania related to the Court’s decision about congressional redistricting,” Saylor said in a statement. “Threats of impeachment directed against Justices because of their decision in a particular case are an attack upon an independent judiciary, which is an essential component of our constitutional plan of government.”

Saylor and Justice Sallie Updyke Mundy, the only other Republican on the seven-member court, were the only justices who voted against striking down the map.

Christopher Borick, a professor of political science at Muhlenberg College, said it was uncommon for a sitting Supreme Court justice to speak out the way Saylor did.

“This is a very unusual move on the part of the Chief Justice and reflects the unprecedented calls for impeachment against a number of justices,” he wrote in an email. “The Court rarely makes such public statements toward another institution of government and in this case the rattling of the impeachment sword was loud enough to make Saylor react to a threat to the independence of the judiciary.”

The WV case has been much less publicized insofar... but from what we know it appears somewhat less political and more centered on corruption:

West Virginia's House Judiciary Committee has adopted articles of impeachment against all four justices on the state's Supreme Court of Appeals, accusing the judges of a range of crimes and throwing the court's immediate future into disarray.

Approved on Tuesday afternoon, the articles of impeachment recommend that the entire bench — Chief Justice Margaret Workman, Justice Allen Loughry, Justice Robin Davis, and Justice Elizabeth Walker – be impeached "for maladministration, corruption, incompetency, neglect of duty, and certain high crimes and misdemeanors."

By law, West Virginia has five Supreme Court justices, who are elected to 12-year terms. But the bench was reduced to four in July, when Justice Menis Ketchum resigned — abruptly announcing his retirement just as impeachment proceedings were set to begin.

Many of the articles take aim at Loughry — whom a federal grand jury indicted in June on a number of serious charges that include fraud, witness tampering and lying to federal investigators.

The investigation into Loughry centered on his use of official vehicles, the expensive renovation of his Supreme Court office — and his moving of a valuable and historic "Cass Gilbert" desk from a Capitol building to his home office.

The 14 newly adopted articles accuse all the justices of overspending to remodel their offices and of failing to properly execute their administrative duties. Except for Walker, they were also accused of paying retired senior status judges more than the law allowed.


The timing of Tuesday's vote to approve the impeachment articles — after a month of hearings, and one week before the Aug. 14 deadline — was quickly criticized by Democrats.

"It's a coup," said Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, a Democrat who is the judiciary committee's minority chair. She added, "They dragged this out all summer long, and suddenly they put this on the agenda."

Fleischauer told NPR that she sees the timing of the impeachment as a ploy to allow Gov. Jim Justice — a former Democrat who is now a Republican — to appoint the majority of the justices on the state's highest court. Any new justices would then serve until the next election in two years' time, she said. [...]

Fleischauer and Shott also differ on the nature of the charges involved. While Fleischauer said she views the charges against Loughry as serious, she thinks the charges against the other three justices are "a lot different" and don't warrant impeachment charges.

So apparently while not disagreeing with the impeachment of one of the judges, the WV Democrats disagree with impeaching the other ones, as well as the timing.

And for more background:

In 2015, West Virginia voted to make its Supreme Court elections nonpartisan. But all of the current justices have been affiliated with the two main parties, and at the start of the year, the bench's unofficial makeup was 3-2 in favor of the Democrats. Loughry won office as a Republican; Walker ran as a Republican in 2008 before being elected in a nonpartisan vote in 2016. Both Workman and Davis were elected as Democrats, as was Ketchum.

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