CHARLESTON – Gov. Jim Justice and legislative leaders from both side of the aisle say state Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry should resign immediately.
Loughry was named June 6 in a 32-count Statement of Charges by the Judicial Investigation Commission. The JIC claims Loughry violated the Code of Judicial Conduct by making "false statements with the deliberate attempt to deceive, engaged in sophism and gave disinformation with the intent to harm another person.”
Democratic leaders first called for Loughry's resignation in a letter.
“We call upon each of you to demand the immediate resignation of Justice Allen Loughry and support calling the Legislature into session to conduct an impeachment hearing as soon as possible should Justice Loughry refuse to resign,” says the June 8 letter signed by Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso and House Minority Leader Tim Miley. The letter was hand-delivered to Justice as well as Senate President Mitch Carmichael and House Speaker Tim Armstead.
Shortly thereafter, Carmichael and Armstead also said Loughry needs to step down.
“In light of both reports from the Legislative Auditor’s Post Audit Division and the statement of charges from the Judicial Investigation Commission, it is time for Justice Loughry to do the right and honorable thing and resign," Carmichael said. "Our citizens must have faith in their judicial system, and this situation is untenable. To repair the public’s trust, there must be a fundamental change and that starts with Justice Loughry stepping down and allowing the Court to move forward without him.”
"Given the serious accusations detailed in the Judicial Investigation Commission's complaint – particularly the charge that he did not answer questions truthfully while under oath to this Legislature – I believe the time has come for Justice Loughry to put the best interests of our state first and resign," Armstead said. "This situation has cast a pall over our state's highest court and undermined the public's confidence in our judicial system. It's time to begin repairing that damage."
Later in the day, Justice issued a statement.
"While all of us are innocent until proven guilty, the allegations against Supreme Court Justice Loughry are extremely troubling," Justice said. "At the very least, this has cast a very negative shadow on the state of West Virginia. Obviously, the Supreme Court understood the seriousness of this situation and suspended him without pay.
"If the charges are accurate, I would urge Justice Loughry to resign and spare the court and state any further embarrassment. As the impeachment process is the domain of the Legislature, I will continue to have a dialogue with the leadership to determine the desire to initiate impeachment proceedings. In the event of sufficient interest, I would be open to calling a special session."
Earlier on June 8, the state Supreme Court suspended Loughry without pay while charges of judicial misconduct against him are pending.
“This corruption and continued disruption to our judicial process must come to an end,” the letter states. “The Legislature as an institution must act immediately to show the people of our great state that checks and balances do exist in our form of government. We as elected officials must take this corruption and out duties seriously. Our citizens deserve to be protected against corruption, and the Legislature must stand strong against Justice Loughry’s abuse of power.”
The letter says Loughry would remain a justice when the fall term of the court begins if quick action isn’t taken. It says only the Legislature can remove a justice from office prior to the end of his term.
The Democratic leaders also say Loughry doesn’t deserve his judicial pension “due to his corrupt actions.”
“Impeachment ensures that he will not receive this undeserved pension,” the letter states. “We believe that Justice Loughry has already benefited enough at the expense of West Virginia taxpayers.”
The letter says action already should have begun, noting Senate and House resolutions introduced during the 2018 regular session amid news reports of misconduct at the Supreme Court.
“The House resolution would have allowed the impeachment proceeding to begin during regular session, at minimal or no cost to the taxpayers,” the letter states. “To wait for the further judicial action before the Legislature takes action will only appear as a delay of justice and of the Legislature shirking our constitutional duties.”
The Democratic leaders say the facts have been “clearly established” and that there is no need to wait for the results of the JIC process.
“Should Justice Loughry decide to defend his actions, we believe that he should do it in a public forum where he can again be placed under oath, face public justice, and be publicly held accountable for his actions. Justice Loughry’s outrageous behavior is illegal and unacceptable. It is our hope that you will also recognize the necessity for immediate action.”