CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia Supreme Court justice who won a seat following a 2018 impeachment scandal announced he is resigning to return to private law practice.
Justice Evan Jenkins said in a statement Friday that he delivered his resignation letter to Gov. Jim Justice in person, effective Sunday.
“I came to the Supreme Court with a promise to restore the public’s trust and confidence in the Court,” Jenkins said. “Working with my colleagues, we have made much progress. The time is right for me to return to working on projects and progress for a better West Virginia.
“After a great deal of prayer and careful consideration with my family, I have decided to return to the practice of law and put my years of state and federal experience to work promoting job-creating economic development projects and championing the issues I so deeply believe will benefit the people of West Virginia.”
A judicial commission will recommend candidates to replace Jenkins until an election can be held.
Jenkins, a former two-term Republican congressman, was appointed to a court seat until an election could be held upon the retirement of Robin Davis after lawmakers voted to impeach her and three other justices in 2018. Some Democrats argued that the court’s shake up over spending and other issues was a power grab by the Republican-led Legislature.
A temporary panel of justices halted the impeachment efforts, ruling they were a violation of the separation-of-powers doctrine and that the Legislature lacked jurisdiction to pursue the trials.
Judicial elections in West Virginia became nonpartisan in 2016.
Jenkins was elected to the court in November 2018 to serve out the remainder of Davis’ term through 2024.
Justice Beth Walker said Jenkins made crucial contributions toward helping the court restore public confidence.
“His leadership on promoting civility in our profession and education about our branch of government will have a positive impact on our state for many years to come,” Walker said.
Jenkins was elected to the U.S. House in 2014, ousting 19-term Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall. After Jenkins was re-elected in 2016, he lost a U.S. Senate bid in 2018.
Jenkins was a three-term state senator who switched from Democrat to Republican in 2013 to face Rahall.
“Evan has devoted his entire life to public service and, on behalf of all West Virginians, we thank him,” Justice said in a statement. “I look forward to appointing a new justice who can fill his shoes and carry the torch of honor and integrity well into the future.”
Chief Justice John Hutchison said Jenkins was dedicated to making the court “that is known for its fiscal responsibility and, most importantly, a court that is dedicated to the rule of law.”