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Balance of Power

New twist in West Virginia’s constitutional standoff

An epic balance-of-powers fight in West Virginia has taken a new turn.

Last summer, the state House impeached the entire state Supreme Court after evidence surfaced of justices lavishly renovating their offices and otherwise misusing taxpayer money. But just before the state Senate was to open the impeachment trials in October, a temporary high court assembled from retired judges called the proceedings to a halt, ruling them an unconstitutional overstepping of legislative powers.

This week the legislators opened a new line of attack, advancing legislation in the state House Judiciary Committee that would withhold the retirement benefits of the judges who ruled against them last fall – at least until they changed their minds.

Proponents, mostly Republicans, argue the move is an appropriate way to combat judicial overreach. Opponents, mostly Democrats, say it's wrong to fight judicial overreach with legislative overreach.

"Now there are no longer in this state three co-equal branches. We have one branch that believes it's superior and it did so with that decision. We cannot let that decision stand as law," said GOP state Rep. Pat McGeehan.

"The idea that we as one branch of government would hold the retirement of another branch hostage unless they decide a case the way we want them to decide is a dangerous step," countered Democratic state Rep. Chad Lovejoy.

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