CHARLESTON – His colleagues honored outgoing state Supreme Court Justice Thomas McHugh on Nov. 21.
At a sine die ceremony that put a cap on the court’s fall term, members of the court spoke highly of the two-time justice whose last day is Dec. 31. He did not seek re-election this year and will be replaced on the court by law clerk Allen Loughry.
McHugh was appointed to the court in 2008 and elected to a two-year term in 2010. He had previously served on the court from 1981-1997.
“I don’t know what to say about Justice McHugh,” Justice Margaret Workman said during the ceremony. “All I can say is I don’t know what we’re going to do without him.
“I guess we will continue to function, but I can tell you this: We will not function at the level we functioned with him here.”
In 2008, Justice Joseph Albright fell ill with esophageal cancer, and McHugh was appointed to fill his spot on the court. Albright passed away in 2009, and McHugh was elected in 2010 to complete Albright’s 12-year term.
Workman said McHugh made the judges around him better by serving as a role model, as well as with his intellect and knowledge.
Justice Brent Benjamin said it was apparent that his wife Judy, his family and his faith were the most important things in McHugh’s life.
“You are his life,” Benjamin said to members of McHugh’s family in attendance. “As much as we would love to be in that position, you are his life, and that’s one of the things that makes him such a special person.”
Justice Robin Davis said the court was fortunate to have had him back for a second turn.
“He has molded, remolded and made us a wonderful, wonderful court,” she said.
“I am very grateful, Justice McHugh, for your patience with me, and I hope that you know that I listen very carefully to everything you say.”
McHugh, a Democrat, was first elected to the court in 1980 and re-elected to another 12-year term in 1992. However, he resigned at the end of 1997 and resumed practing law in Charleston at Allen Guthrie McHugh and Thomas.
McHugh, 76, graduated from West Virginia University College of Law in 1964. He was a First Lieutenant in the U.S Army from 1958-1961 and was elected to the Kanawha County Circuit Court in 1974.
He served as chief justice five times.
“He has really guided me, and I don’t know what I’m going to do without him,” current Chief Justice Menis Ketchum said. “And I’m sure that I’ll go off on some tangents without him. So, Tom, I really appreciate you.”
Others who spoke during the ceremony included McHugh’s son John, Monsignor Edward Sadie of the Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral, former law partner Pat Maroney and law clerk Susan Scott.
“The time I’ve spent here has been worth it,” McHugh said. “It’s a great opportunity to work with such great people.
“And as we all know, the courts go on. They exist and people leave. Only one thing’s forever, and I’ll close with I don’t want that yet.”