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Supreme Court-Legislature antics further hurt state

September 21, 2018

Having lived in our adopted state for 42 years, we’ve learned to expect outsiders’ negative and snide comments about West Virginia. Most are said by ill-informed people who have never stepped foot into this state.

Unfortunately, we give critics more ammunition when our state leaders do foolish things. And they’ve done it again with our Supreme Court brouhaha. It was bad enough that we found that one Supreme Court justice went on a ridiculous spending spree, but the Legislature’s possible removal of all Supreme Court justices in one fell swoop and replacing them with political cronies is ridiculous.

In January, Del. Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, raised the issue of Justice Allen Loughry’s extensive spending on furnishings of his office and home. The Legislature showed no interest in this then, but after the legislative auditor’s reports appeared, the mood changed. Now, all justices are possibly being purged regardless the extent of their wrongdoings. Of course, this may change before this column is printed.

While there’s no readily available data on state employees and elected officials obtaining free meals and using state vehicles, such figures would make interesting reading. Perhaps people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

It appears that Justice Loughry did throw stones. According to The Washington Post, Justice Loughry met with “a special FBI agent and a representative of the U.S. Attorney’s office for Southern West Virginia to report his colleagues for improper spending.” John Grisham, the popular fiction writer who has already used some of our state’s wild and not so wonderful behavior in his novels, must be champing at the bit.

Almost everyone informed about the five justices’ spending habits has agreed that Justice Loughry is in a class by himself regarding flagrant violations of ethics and expenditures. When the information about Loughry was first released, I was personally surprised. Shortly after 2006, when his book “Don’t Buy Another Vote, I Won’t Pay for a Landslide: The Sordid and Continuing History of Political Corruption in West Virginia,” was published, I introduced Justice Loughry at the Ohio River Book Festival here in Huntington. He spoke about his book, which lambasted the Kennedys and West Virginia politicians. I was impressed with Loughry then and during his campaign for the Supreme Court. Even psychologists can’t see through politicians.

While it’s clear that Loughry needs to be removed from West Virginia Supreme Court, the offenses of the others seem to be in another class. Even our legislators can’t seem to make up their minds. Last week there was a brief announcement that Justices Workman and Walker would just be censured instead of impeached, but that was changed. The Senate almost voted to reject impeachment against Robin Davis, who has already retired from the court.

Gov. Jim Justice has appointed former (just resigned in time) West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, and U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., to fill the positions of resigned Justices Davis and Menis Ketchum. Now, Clay County attorney Wayne King is claiming that Jenkins is not eligible to serve on the court because his law license was inactive for some of the years within the 10-year period required to serve on the court.

Our Supreme Court elections were deemed non-partisan in 2015; empty words. At least if our Republican Legislature and governor were going to clear the Supreme Court of three Democrats, they should have replaced them with candidates with excellent judicial experience. The shenanigans of our state government leaders and the Supreme Court will continue to hurt West Virginia.

Diane W. Mufson is a retired psychologist. Her email is dwmufson@comcast.net.

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