Loughry open to looking at recusal rules

By Chris Dickerson | Mar 30, 2012


CHARLESTON – A Republican candidate for state Supreme Court says he's open to reviewing the state Supreme Court's recusal rules.

"In fact, Chief Justice (Menis) Ketchum is already working on that issue now as one of his initiatives," said Allen Loughry, who is a law clerk at the Supreme Court. "He is taking his time to thoroughly review how other states have dealt with this issue, and I am confident that solid rules will be produced that everyone will be pleased with at the end of the day.

"I am certainly not at liberty to reveal those private discussions with the Chief Justice, but I can assure you that he has a thorough understanding of this issue."

Democratic candidate Tish Chafin unveiled her plan to revise the state Supreme Court's recusal rules.

Under current state Supreme Court recusal rules, the decision on whether to recuse is left solely the challenged justice.

Under Chafin's proposal, in cases where a justice declines to recuse, the rules would provide for an expedited de novo review of the motion by members of the Court. Chafin proposes allowing a senior judge or justice to be appointed to the court, to ensure quorum, to hear the recusal motion.

She proposes that, in addition to review by the full court, written decisions should be required in all recusal motions and those decisions should be published and made publically available.

Loughry said Thursday the issue is being dealt with by the Supreme Court in a non-political manner.

"Chief Justice Ketchum is not up for re-election this year which will lead to an impartial review," Loughry said. "This is an issue that we need to review and apply common sense and not just make a bunch of comments based upon short-term political gain.

"With the implementation of the revised rules of appellate procedure, the Supreme Court has already proven that this is something that can be handled through revision of our current rules. And, it is something that I will strongly be involved with if I am fortunate enough to win a seat on this Court."

Loughry said the issue is an important one.

"The judiciary is critically important to people's lives," he said. "And when people do not have confidence in the system, it is seen as just another political branch of government. When a judiciary is perceived as impartial, the judicial system serves as a safeguard of the people's rights and freedoms.

"Having said that, why are some candidates only talking about recusal rules? Why aren't we talking about the amount of money pouring into judicial elections? This in many ways goes to the very heart of why recusals become an issue in the first place."

Loughry and Circuit Judge John Yoder are the Republicans running for two spots on the bench in this spring's primary.

Chafin is one of six Democratic candidates. Joining her are current Justice Davis, circuit judges J.D. Beane and Jim Rowe, current Supreme Court law clerk Louis Palmer and New Martinsville attorney H. John "Buck" Rogers.

The primary election is May 8, and the general election is Nov. 6.

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