CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Four members of the state Supreme Court voluntarily recused themselves Monday from a case involving new Nicholas County Circuit Judge Stephen Callaghan after the judge’s attorney raised concerns about possible conflicts of interest.
Callaghan defeated longtime Judge Gary Johnson in the May election. A short time later, Johnson’s son filed a complaint in connection with a controversial election flyer Callaghan used in the campaign, claiming it may have violated the Code of Judicial Conduct and the Rules of Professional Conduct established for judges, prospective judges, and lawyers.
The case was scheduled for oral arguments before the High Court Tuesday but Callaghan’s attorney Lonnie Simmons filed a motion to disqualify Monday calling on the four justices to remove themselves from the case because they recently hired Judge Johnson as the interim administrator of the state Supreme Court. Justice Robin Davis had previously removed herself from the Callaghan case and Chief Justice Allen Loughry, Justice Margaret Workman, Justice Menis Ketchum and Justice Beth Walker followed suit Monday afternoon.
Retired Justice Tom McHugh was appointed to replace Davis. He appointed circuit judges Robert Waters, James Matish, Charles Carl III and Joanna Tabit to hear the case. It is now scheduled for Jan. 24.
If the Court eventually finds in favor of complaint filed by Johnson’s son, Callaghan could be suspended from his newly held position as the 28th Circuit Court Judge in Nicholas County for a full year and barred from practicing law during that period. Callaghan ran his own firm in Summersville prior to his electoral win.