CHARLESTON – An author and law clerk for the state Supreme Court of Appeals is seeking a seat on the bench as an "independent voice."
Allen Loughry announced Wednesday he is running for the Supreme Court in 2012 as an independent.
A lawyer with four law degrees from American University, University of London and Capital University, Loughry also studied law at Oxford University, Loughry has worked as a lawyer for the West Virginia Supreme Court for the past eight years. Prior to working at the Supreme Court, Loughry was a Senior Assistant Attorney General arguing more than 20 cases before the state's high court.
"In order to have a justice system that is not influenced by the legislative and executive branches or by pressure from special interest groups, you must have an independent judiciary," the 40-year-old Loughry said. "I have spent my entire career trying to make West Virginia citizens safer and hold criminals accountable."
Loughry says people want politicians to belong to a political party because they want their representatives to argue philosophical ideas. But he says those same people want their judiciary to be independent.
"I want this candidacy to change that idea in West Virginia," he said. "It's time. We're one of a handful of states left that have purely partisan elections. It's time for an independent judiciary."
He said the justification for an independent judiciary goes back to colonial times.
"It's one of the reasons we broke away from England," he said. "It's written right in the Declaration of the Independence. The king chose members of the judiciary. It's one of the reasons we have a separate judiciary. States have struggled with this notion for more than 200 years. It's one of the reasons we still have elections because we're uncomfortable with an executive selecting judiciary officials. But the elections absolutely should be non-partisan.
"One of the biggest problems with any judiciary is maintaining the public trust. Right now, people feel pretty good about the Court. But when you have two seats open, things can change very quickly. I believe if you're going to have a justice system that isn't influenced by the legislative or executive or interest groups, you have to have an independent judiciary. I think we need non-partisan election of judges. If you have independent judges or judges perceived to be independent, people are going to have more trust in the system at the end of the day."
Loughry said he has been fascinated with politics and government since he was 6. But as he grew older, he said he became frustrated with politics.
"That's why I wrote my book," he said. "I want things to change for the positive in West Virginia. I want to be a part of the solution for West Virginia. And that's why I'm running for the Supreme Court."
Loughry has served as a law clerk at the state Supreme Court for the past eight years. He also has experience in local, state and federal governments. He has served as Special Prosecuting Attorney, Assistant County Prosecutor, Direct Aide to Governor Gaston Caperton, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Special Assistant to a Congressman, and has worked with more than 20 Supreme Court justices at both the Ohio and West Virginia supreme courts. He also is an adjunct professor at the University of Charleston.
"I've learned at UC that a lot of the students want to get involved," he said. "This election is for every kid in the rural parts of West Virginia to know they still can participate in the political process."
Loughry is the author of "Don't Buy Another Vote, I Won't Pay for a Landslide," which detailed political corruption in the state and how West Virginians have suffered from the corruption.
A lifelong West Virginia resident and native of Tucker County, Loughry and his wife, Kelly, live in Charleston with their son Justus.
Loughry is the only independent to announce his candidacy for the Court so far. Justice Robin Jean Davis and Tish Chafin -- both Democrats -- are running for the two open seats, as well as Republican Judge John Yoder.
"With my educational and professional background, I think this is a logical step in my career," Loughry said of his candidacy. "People should want to know the people who run for this office are qualified.
"I think I would bring a new perspective to the court. Each of my degrees, my professional experience and my life experiences have prepared me for this. I've worked hard, and I'll make people proud of the Court.
"My campaign is going to be well-funded, but it's also going to be one of the biggest grassroots campaigns you've ever seen. I'll be burning up my phone, talking to a lot of people. I've already contacted people in 44 counties. Within the next week, I'll have people in all 55 counties. We're going to meticulously move from now until November 2012.
"People are going to be very surprised because an independent is going to win one of those seats."
For more information about his campaign, go to www.AllenLoughry.com.