McHugh

CHARLESTON -- Many people have called state Supreme Court Justice Thomas McHugh an honorable and fair man.

And one act might prove that as much as any ruling he's ever made or any opinion he's ever written.

Because of his previous stint as a Kanawha County circuit judge and state Supreme Court justice, McHugh draws a state pension. Now that he's again serving as a Justice, McHugh is required by state law to accept both his judicial pension and the Supreme Court salary of $121,000 a year.

But McHugh says he is adamant about not being paid more than his four fellow Justices.

So, he said Wednesday he intends to write a check each month to the state's General Revenue Fund for that part of his salary which, if he did not give it back, would otherwise mean he was making more than his colleagues.

McHugh, 73, said he sought advice from three CPAs, and he has a thick document on his desk outlining his plan.

"I will not make more than the other members of the Court," McHugh said. "State law requires that I take my retirement and my salary. But it says nothing about me giving some of it back."

Gov. Joe Manchin said the decision to avoid this so-called act of judicial double dipping that garnered headlines in the state last fall is just another example of McHugh's fairness.

"He wants all things to be fair, and that is so admirable," Manchin said. "He certainly doesn't have to do it, but he knows it's the honorable thing to do."

Last fall, Kanawha Circuit Judge Charlie King, Cabell Circuit Judge Alfred Ferguson and Summers County Magistrate William Jefferies stirred controversy when they retired from their seats weeks before the general election.

Both were unopposed in their races, and they both won re-election. When they returned to their benches this January, both now receive a salary and a pension.

Manchin pushed for a bill this legislative session that would require elected officials to be retired for one year before seeking re-election to that office. That bill (Senate Bill 244) was on its third reading in the House on April 9.

McHugh also said Wednesday he's keeping the staff of former Justice Joseph Albright, who died last month.

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