Farrell fills Loughry's seat; Walker disagrees about him possibly being Acting Chief Justice

By Chris Dickerson | Aug 10, 2018

CHARLESTON – Cabell Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell has been appointed to fill suspended Justice Allen Loughry's seat on the state Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Margaret Workman filled an order Aug. 9 appointing Farrell. The fall terms begins Sept. 5.

"Court employees have received many inquiries about whether the work of the court will continue as scheduled in the term that begins Sept. 5," Workman said in a statement. "It will. The court calendar is set, and the docket will proceed as usual.

“Supreme Court Justices are Constitutionally required to keep the court open and will continue to fulfill their Constitutional duties."

Workman's order goes on to say that if the pending impeachment of all four remaining Supreme Court justices happens, Farrell would be acting Chief Justice.

Justice Beth Walker filed a response to Workman's order Aug. 10 agreeing with the appointment of Farrell to fill in for Loughry. But she disagreed with the stipulation of making him Chief Justice in the event of the impeachment of the rest of the court.

"I agree with the Chief Justice's selection of Judge Paul T. Farrell, a distinguished jurist with an exemplary record of public service to his community and state, to serve as justice during the suspension of Justice Allen Loughry," Walker wrote. "However, I believe it is improper to designate any justice as Acting Chief Justice for impeachment proceedings in which I or my colleagues may have an interest and that have not yet commenced in the Senate."

But Justice Robin Jean Davis, who administered the oath during Farrell's Aug. 10 swearing in ceremony, disagreed with Walker.

"Because all three sitting justices of this court are disqualified from presiding over any impeachment proceeding in the Senate in which Chief Justice Workman, Justice Walker or I may be the subject of the Articles of Impeachment, by the Rule of Necessity, the Chief Justice is constitutionally charged with appointing a justice to preside," Davis said in a separate response filed shortly after Farrell's swearing-in ceremony. "Any statement to the contrary is intellectually flawed and has no basis under our State Constitution."

Loughry and the other three current Justices – Workman, Davis and Walker – all are named in articles of impeachment that were recommended Aug. 7 by the House Judiciary Committee. The full House of Delegates will take up that matter Aug. 13. If it passes a simple majority vote in the House, the Senate will have an impeachment trial after that. Impeachment requires a two-third majority vote in the Senate.

Farrell is taking the seat of Loughy, who is suspended. Gov. Jim Justice will appoint someone to replace former Justice Menis Ketchum, who resigned and retired last month.

Farrell was appointed to the Cabell Circuit Court in 2011 by then-Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. He was elected in 2012.

Farrell graduated from Xavier University in 1971 and West Virginia University College of Law in 1978. At the time of his appointment to the bench he had been practicing law at Farrell Farrell & Farrell in Huntington for 15 years. He previously served as an Assistant Attorney General for West Virginia  (1978), counsel for the West Virginia Senate President (1982-1989), Administrative Law Judge at the West Virginia Department of Employment Security (1988-1990), Hearing Examiner for the West Virginia Workers’ Compensation Board (1985-1988), Adjunct Professor of Criminal Justice at Marshall University (1982-1985), Assistant Trust Officer at First Huntington National Bank (1978-1980), Assistant Cabell County Prosecutor (1982-1990), solo practitioner (1980-1990) and Assistant United States Attorney (1990-1995).

Farrell served in the U. S. Army from 1971-1973 as a First Lieutenant. He is active in the Huntington community, having served as Little League president and coach, youth soccer coach, high school and college soccer referee and as a volunteer at Hospice of Huntington and Habitat for Humanity. He is married to Charlene M. Farrell and they have three sons and seven grandchildren.

Loughry is suspended without pay after being named in a 23-count federal indictment for mail fraud, wire fraud, lying to federal investigators, witness tampering and obstruction of justice. That's in addition to a 32-count charge from the state Judicial Investigation Commission of violating the Code of Judicial Conduct by misusing state resources and lying about it.

Loughry pleaded not guilty to the federal charge. His trial is scheduled for Oct. 2.

Ketchum resigned at the end of July. A few days later it was announced he'd agreed to plead guilty to a federal information charging him with wire fraud for using a state owned vehicle and fuel card for personal travel. He plea hearing is scheduled for Aug. 23.

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