Suspension sought of West Virginia Supreme Court justice
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A commission on Wednesday recommended the immediate suspension of West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry over allegations that include repeatedly lying and using his public office for personal gain.
The state Judicial Investigation Commission filed a 32-count complaint with the state Supreme Court saying there is probable cause to believe Loughry violated judicial codes of conduct.
Loughry didn’t immediately return a telephone message left at his office Wednesday.
The complaint alleges Loughry “made false statements with the deliberate attempt to deceive” concerning his involvement in the design and renovation of his office. He also failed to tell other justices about a federal subpoena, had furniture moved from his Capitol office to his home, and improperly used state vehicles for personal use, among other things.
Loughry has repeatedly denied involvement in the office renovations, including during an appearance before the House Committee on Finance in January. But the complaint said Supreme Court records show he had a heavy hand in them.
The five-member court has faced criticism over millions of dollars spent to renovate court offices over the past several years. Loughry has blamed former court administrator Steve Canterbury for the expenditures. Loughry fired Canterbury in January 2017.
The complaint also said Loughry kept secret from other justices that a federal subpoena was served on the Supreme Court in December, even though it may have sought items specific to one or more of the court’s members. The subject of the subpoena wasn’t disclosed in the complaint.
The court received another subpoena in February, and the other justices were made aware of it along with the earlier subpoena. The other justices removed him as chief justice later that day and replaced him with Margaret Workman. Workman said it was the start of a long process to restore public respect for the court.
The complaint said Loughry violated other codes of conduct when he had an expensive desk moved from his law clerk’s office at the Capitol to his home without permission or knowledge of the other justices in 2012. He returned the desk last November. It also said he moved a leather couch from his office to his home and had extra court computers installed in his home for personal use by himself, his wife and son.
Also detailed in the complaint were allegations that Loughry improperly used a state vehicle for personal reasons. Loughry signed for a car for a total of 212 days from 2013 to 2016 but failed to list a destination for 148 days.
On one of the trips in December 2013, Loughry’s personal calendar listed attending a West Virginia University basketball game in Morgantown and appointments involving his mother. Loughry’s mother and father live in Tucker County, and it’s believed Loughry also owns a home there, the complaint said.
The complaint said the Supreme Court’s director of security, in response to a 2016 request from Justice Robin Davis to gather information on court car usage, said the “only person we can recall that failed to provide a destination when asked was Justice Loughry.”
The complaint also alleged Loughry used court employees to further his personal objectives. It said the court issued a news release quoting Loughry as saying it was a long-standing practice for justices to establish a home office with court-provided equipment. In fact, the court has no written policy concerning a home office. It does have a verbal policy involving only computer equipment.
Later Wednesday, the other justices recused themselves from presiding over the complaint. Workman appointed Kanawha County Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit to be the acting chief justice in the case and Talbot will appoint four acting justices to preside with her.
The complaint seeks Loughry’s immediate suspension without pay. He has 30 days to respond to the charges.