Armstead, Jenkins get seats on W.Va. court

CHARLESTON — Voters in West Virginia have chosen to return two appointed justices to permanently fill two vacancies on West Virginia’s highest court.

According to unofficial results from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, Justice Tim Armstead won in Division 1 with 25 percent. Armstead will fill the unexpired term of former justice Menis Ketchum, which is up for election in 2020. In Division 2, Justice Evan Jenkins won with 35 percent of the vote. He will fill the unexpired term of former justice Robin Davis, a seat up for election in 2024.

The closest candidate to Armstead, Kanawha County Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit, had 22 percent of the vote, followed by Eastern Panhandle Circuit Judge Chris Wilkes with 17 percent. The closest candidate to Jenkins, Charleston attorney Dennise Smith, had 15 percent, followed by former state Senate President Jeff Kessler with 11 percent.

Ketchum and Davis were replaced temporarily in September by the gubernatorial appointments of Armstead, the former Republican House speaker, and Jenkins, the former Republican 3rd District Congressman. The Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission sent Gov. Jim Justice a list of recommendations. In August, 10 candidates filed to fill Ketchum’s unexpired term. Another 10 filed to fill the unexpired term of Davis.

Ketchum resigned July 27, just days before agreeing to plead guilty in federal court to a count of wire fraud for use of a state vehicle and fuel card, which he will be sentenced for Jan. 30. He delivered his resignation to the governor’s office one day before the House Judiciary Committee began impeachment investigations into all sitting justices.

Justice Robin Davis resigned Aug. 14 after being impeached by the House of Delegates.

The House adopted 11 articles of impeachment against her, Chief Justice Margaret Workman, Justice Allen Loughry (convicted in federal court Oct. 12 of 11 felonies), and Beth Walker, who was acquitted of her impeachment charge by the state Senate.

Davis filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against members of the legislature and Justice, alleging violations of due process during the impeachment process, as well as gender and political discrimination. All remaining impeachment trials were halted after an all-appointed state Supreme Court ruled in favor of a petition by Workman to stop the process. The appointed circuit judges r

uled that the House didn’t follow its rules governing the impeachment process, and that the House violated the separation of powers.

Kickstarting the impeachment process that resulted in the resignations of Ketchum and Davis was the federal indictment of Justice Allen Loughry.

The House impeached Loughry on multiple charges, and he is facing a 33-count complaint from the Judicial Investigation Commission. Loughry could face up to 190 years in federal prison and up to $2.75 million in fines when is is sentenced Jan. 18.