CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry has been named in 32 charges alleging he violated the Code of Judicial Conduct, saying he lied repeatedly about office renovations and then hid a federal subpoena from fellow justices.
Loughry is the author of “Don’t Buy Another Vote, I Won’t Pay for a Landslide: The Sordid and Continuing History of Political Corruption in West Virginia.”
This could be the latest chapter.
The statement of charges was filed Wednesday afternoon at the state Supreme Court by the JIC, which has been investigating complaints against Loughry since February.
The Judicial Investigation Commission concludes Loughry “engaged in a pattern and practice of lying and using his public office for private gain.”
Loughry has the right to respond within 30 days.
The Judicial Disciplinary Counsel filed a separate motion for Loughry to be suspended without pay. That office had three complaints filed against Loughry and launched its own separate three-and-a-half month investigation.
The other four Supreme Court justices have already voluntarily recused themselves from participating in the case. Judge Joanna Tabit of Kanawha County has been named acting chief justice in the matter. Tabit will appoint four additional justices to help her preside.
The Judicial Investigation Commission makes specific reference to Loughry’s book, citing a page in which he describes his reasons for writing it.
“Part of the driving force behind my decision to write this book is the fact that I am so outraged with my state’s political corruption,” Loughry wrote in his book.
“The countless disgusting examples of politicians violating the people’s trust are not just embarrassing and disheartening but have completely shattered by confidence in my state’s government.”
Loughry went on to write in his book that judges should be held to the highest standard of conduct.
“Of all the criminal politicians in West Virginia, the group that shatters the confidence of the people the most is a corrupt judiciary,” he wrote.
“It is essential that people have the absolute confidence in the integrity and impartiality of our system of justice.”
Those passages are listed under a section of the statement of charges about aggravating factors.
Controversy began last year after stories about pricey renovations at the Supreme Court: the $32,000 couch and $7,500 wooden inlaid floor in Loughry’s office, a $500,000 office renovation and $28,000 rugs in Justice Robin Davis’s office, and a $130,000 upgrade of Justice Beth Walker’s chambers.
The Judicial Investigation Commission concluded that a multitude of emails showed Loughry was heavily involved with the $363,000 design and renovation of his office, including a $7,500 custom-made wooden medallion of the State of West Virginia built into the floor with his home county of Tucker in blue granite.
“For example, the respondent submitted a rough hand drawing with detailed notes done by him depicting how he would like his office to look upon completion,” according to the statement of charges. “Importantly, the drawing contained the floor medallion.”
Reports by Kennie Bass of WCHS-TV last November focused on the lavish renovations. “In the portion of the interview that aired on television, Respondent clearly lied three times to Mr. Bass and the public about his level of involvement in the design and renovation of his office.”
The formal statement of charges includes the full exchange between Loughry and Bass.
The formal statement goes on to conclude that Loughry lied three more times during a Nov. 15, 2018, during an interview with Hoppy Kercheval on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”
He lied again in a newspaper op-ed and then to Delegate Eric Householder in a House Finance meeting, the Judicial Investigation Commission states.
In the House hearing, Loughry had sworn an oath prior to testifying about the Supreme Court budget.
Controversy then erupted over Loughry’s possession at his home of an antique desk associated with famed architect Cass Gilbert from when the state Capitol was first built.
He took it home in 2012 while he was still a law clerk.
There are charges related to that, too. The statement notes that there are lots of ways to dispose of state property.
“Importantly, the statute makes absolutely no provision for an employee to take home a commodity such as a desk or a couch that is no longer being used by the state agency simply on a whim,” the statement of charges notes.
Loughry also faces punishment over taking home a leather couch that had belonged to Justice Joseph Albright. The Judicial Investigation Commission says it should have gone to unclaimed property.
And he faces punishment for falsely telling the Supreme Court’s spokeswoman about a longstanding practice allowing justices to establish a home office. In reality, the court’s policy applies only to computer equipment.
Loughry did have Supreme Court computer equipment installed at his home, and he’s in trouble for that, too. He had two desktops and a laptop that were court property. One of the desktops was mostly used for storing family photographs and playing games, the statement of charges says.
As a recent legislative audit revealed, Loughry and fellow Justice Menis Ketchum drove state vehicles for personal use without properly claiming the perk as a taxable fringe benefit. The Judicial Investigation also raises that issue.
The Judicial Investigation Commission also includes charges based on Loughry hiding from other justices the fact that he’d been served with a federal subpoena in December, 2017.
“Respondent, who was Chief Justice at the time, knew of the subpoena as did the Administrative Director and the then-General Counsel for the Administrative Division,” the formal charges state.
“Respondent never informed the other justices of the subpoena, even though it may have sought items specific to one or more members of the court.”
Importantly, the statement of charges notes, any of the other justices could have challenged the subpoena “but obviously could not if they were unaware of its existence.”
Another subpoena came to the Court this past February. This time, the other justices were made aware of it.
“During a conversation about it, the General Counsel let slip that there had been a previous subpoena issued in December 2017. Because of this important development the other justices lost trust in Respondent as chief justice and removed him from office later that day by a vote of four to one.
“The sole vote for retention came from respondent.”
The first complaint to the Judicial Investigation Commission came this past Feb. 20. The same day, Judicial Disciplinary Counsel sent out a letter requesting a response.
Loughry was granted multiple continuances to answer until mid-April, according to the Judicial Investigation Commission.
“On or about April 26, 2018, respondent was given until May 14, 2018, to answer all three complaints and was further advised that no more continuances would be granted,” today’s filing stated.
On May 14, Loughry sent word that he would not respond.
Loughry, a 47-year-old Tucker County native, served as chief justice starting in 2017. It was to be an unprecedented four-year term, but the other justices voted him out of that position in early 2018 during continued controversy over Supreme Court spending.
For most of the decade before his election to the Supreme Court, Loughry had served as a law clerk for justices, including current Chief Justice Margaret Workman.
He also served for seven years as a senior assistant attorney general in the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office.
MetroNews reporter Jeff Jenkins contributed to this story.