CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Former state Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury says his firing Wednesday by the Supreme Court was political “pure and simple.”
According to Canterbury, the Court’s 3-2 vote to dismiss him after more than 11 years on the job was the first action of the Court under the leadership of new Chief Justice Allen Loughry. He said Loughry, new Justice Beth Walker and Justice Margaret Workman voted for the firing while Justices Menis Ketchum and Robin Davis voted against it. The vote came in a closed door conference.
Canterbury admits his relationship with Loughry started to disintegrate some time ago.
“It was fine the first couple of years but descended into unpleasantry,” Canterbury told MetroNews. “He wasn’t really friendly.”
Canterbury, a will and pleasure employee, chose not to elaborate on what may have caused the problems. He said he still respects the confidentiality of the Court. The Court also isn’t talking. It told MetroNews Wednesday and again Thursday it doesn’t comment on personnel issues.
Canterbury said Loughry’s move doesn’t surprise him but he said he was surprised by Justice Walker’s vote.
“Her voting against me without any experience of my work reveals how directly political it (the firing) was,” he said, adding he spoke with Walker last Friday and she seemed to express support.
Canterbury said he was given very little time to leave his office Wednesday. He packed up his things quickly while his computer was turned off and his cell phone taken.
“I’m not sure why they would want to be so punitive but they are,” he said. “I don’t think they can put their finger on anything that is especially problematic about what I did.”
Canterbury’s work at he High Court has been recognized nationally. He said his top accomplishments included improving turnaround time for cases for circuit judges and magistrates, a new computer system linking all magistrates in the state, a domestic violence registry, a mental hygiene registry, the expansion of drug courts, work on juvenile justice reform and restoration of the Supreme Court courtroom.
Canterbury said he’s in a “puzzling place” because he’s never been fired but he still believes he has something to offer to the state.
“I know it’s not easy to be able to necessarily get something in government if you’ve been fired by the Supreme Court, I mean, that’s a tough thing for people to maybe digest. I don’t know, maybe I’ll start tweeting,” he said.
Canterbury ran the state Regional Jail Authority for eight years before taking the Supreme Court job. He’s being replaced by former Nicholas Circuit Judge Gary Johnson who will serve as interim director.