Indiana University law professor and judicial ethics expert Charles Geyh predicts that West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry will “step down in the next few days.”
The Judicial Investigation Commission (JIC) has lodged a 32-count Statement of Charges against Loughry for violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct, the state Supreme Court has suspended him without pay, and Gov. Jim Justice and legislative leaders from both parties have called for his resignation.
Last Wednesday, a federal grand jury indicted Loughry on 22 counts involving lying to federal agents, witness tampering, mail fraud, and wire fraud. If convicted, he faces fines of $5.5 million and 395 years in prison.
This week, the Legislature went into special session to begin the process of impeachment.
“It’s all coming to a head,” says Geyh.
“This is an extremely serious case. It’s almost a classic Watergate-style problem,” he observes. “If the allegations are true, you have the original misconduct being bad in its own right, and then you have the cover-up being even worse.”
To top it all off, the alleged perpetrator of the various offenses is a supreme court justice.
“Judges are under a duty to promote public trust and confidence in the judiciary,” Geyh emphasizes. “Taking stuff and lying about taking stuff … you’re looking at calling your integrity into question. As a judge, you have to follow the law, and you can’t have a scofflaw as a judge.”
If Loughry misappropriated state furniture as charged and then lied about it, “that is an awful integrity issue,” Geyh asserts, deploring the “hypocrisy and duplicity” of such behavior on the part of a judge.
“I try my best to see both sides in situations like this,” says Geyh, “but it seems to me that there is no other side. It seems to me that the reality of it is that the [JIC] nailed it. If they have evidentiary support, which they seem to do, they have him dead to rights.”
Despite his claims of innocence, Loughry should resign, Geyh argues, “for the common good of the state, the court, and the judiciary.”
So he should. The sooner, the better.