Digging Deeper by Dan Heyman
WV Strong's Dan Heyman sat down with WV House of Delegates Judiciary Chair, Delegate John Shott, after Thursday's impeachment hearing to discuss the ongoing investigations into the West Virginia State Supreme Court.
[00:00:00] WV Strong: It maybe kind of hard to get a sense of this but do we do we know now any better idea about how long this (the hearings before the House Judiciary Committee) is going to take?
[00:00:09] Delegate John Shott, chair of the House Judiciary Committee: We don't know just because we've had some challenges in getting witnesses that we think have information that we need to consider to appear. Some of some of them have not outright refused - we have some that we are evading our process server - but some of them have retained counsel and their counsel is not available to be here with them until certain dates and so that has affected our scheduling and we're trying to work out some alternative ways to get that testimony before the committee. But at this point I can't really say. My hope was we could finish up next week (7-24/7-29). But I'm not sure I can say that with any certainty at this point.
[00:00:51] WV S: In the context of that - and you may have answered this already - react to the notion that this has the danger of becoming a fishing expedition. React to that.
[00:01:05] Del Shott: Well, it's certainly not our intent to engage in a fishing expedition. We have been basically exploring issues that have been raised either through our audits or through the JIC investigation or through the indictment. But also as testimony unfolds sometimes witnesses will add something to the picture that we weren't aware of and it's our job under the resolution that the legislature passed to look at all the justices and all the issues that might be raised. That doesn't mean that each of those issues would rise to the level of an impeachable offense it just means our job is to look at them and make sure whether or not we think there is a basis to go forward in some sort of a further proceedings.
[00:01:49] WV S: It seemed like today there was very little dealing with any of the other justices other than Justice Loughry. It seemed like discussion of who took the cars for personal use who you know took the furniture for personal use the computers. I mean are you seeing that as a pattern that there's very little with the other justices?
[00:02:12] Del Shott: Well, the other justices were basically the subject of some questions just in the sense that we've had some issues raised about the use of court personnel to chauffeur justices from here to there. And whether that's appropriate. So there were some questions about that and that evidence for that information is certainly relevant on that issue. But the bulk of the evidence we received from the Judicial Investigation Commission has just been to last a week or so and that only addresses Justice Loughry. So right now we have been using that information to call witnesses. And so just by nature the fact that the JIC is only targeted thus far Justice Loughry, then most of that information deals solely with Justice Loughry.
[00:03:06] (Monday, after this interview, the JIC announced that it had dismissed complaints against the remaining justices.)
[00:03:07] WV S: Do you feel like there's a decent chance that you're going to turn up something that say, I mean since the FBI has been through this you do you feel like you might be able to turn up something that the FBI can't or hasn't?
[00:03:21] Del Shott: Well we don't know. You know the grand jury testimony is off limits to us. So we don't really know what the... and the U.S. attorney has properly not shared that information with us. So (that makes sense) we don't know whether we find something they know or not since we don't know what all... (What they've found).
[00:03:40] WV S: The sense I get is that there is a section of the public that probably is generally mistrustful of public institutions in general but but especially after that some of these issues came to light. They really became angry about the climate of behavior by that of the justices on the court. How much of that do you feel like you can clear away and how much of that do you feel like rises or does not rise to the level of impeachable offense?
[00:04:21] Del Shott: Ultimately the question of whether the conduct that we are able to verify satisfies the - I'll call it the conditions of the constitution will be up to both the House - our committee initially and the House and then the Senate will be the final arbiter of that. You know it's obvious that what came out in the press was a motivation for a lot of people to look beyond the surface. Now just really until we fully complete our investigation and you know you really in many cases you're looking at individual incidents that might not be enough but a pattern that might be enough. So it's just to all the evidence is in and we're satisfied we can present a case to the first the House and then the Senate that would satisfy their their requirements. I can't really go beyond what I've said. It certainly... I preside at these meetings. I'm only one vote ultimately.
[00:05:32] WV S: Is there anything you would like the public to know about this other than what has been said beyond what...?
[00:05:41] Del Shott: I've said this before. I don't know if it's gotten through. You know the justices of our state supreme court deserve great respect and they are elected to a very very critical position in our state. However they're are the least accountable to the voter because of the length of her term. And I think the Constitution gave us as the legislature the power in very limited circumstances to hold him accountable and we take that very seriously. We don't want to set a low bar and basically cause the justices to be in fear of every decision they make might be a basis for some kind of retaliation. At the same time they shouldn't they should know that they're accountable for a behavior that's just not acceptable. And that's I hope the public will see that at the end of this process.
[00:06:34] WV S: When you think about corruption a judge you accuse a judge of corruption that suggests that you know you worry about issues like are they in the tank on a case or are they going to you know show favoritism. These charges don't sound like that. Is there something that you want the public to know about that part of it? OK.
[00:06:58] Del Shott: I mean we don't have had any allegations that have been bought-and-paid-for on the court. That's not been anything that's been brought to our attention. There are other issues that could play into role of whether someone is fit to serve in that kind of respected and critical position. Doesn't just mean somebody is willing to take a bribe to throw a case. It's much broader than that right.
[00:07:27] WV S: Thank you delegate. I appreciate that.
For a more humorous take on the WV Supreme Court Impeachment Story, check out Bil Lepp's "The Wheels On The Bus..."
Dan Heyman has been covering West Virginia politics and policy for more than two decades. He likes dogs but has trouble keeping kudzu from swallowing everything he owns. For more of Dan's WV Strong content, click here.