CHARLESTON, W.Va. — While House Democrats demanded an expedited vote on impeachment against suspended Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry, the Republican chair of the judiciary committee said Wednesday he plans to stay the course on reviewing all justices.
The Democrats who sent out a news release Wednesday calling for the vote also released their proposed articles of impeachment.
“There’s no reason why we should drag this out any longer when it comes to Justice Loughry,” Del. Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, told MetroNews “Talkline” on Wednesday.
“The rest of the justices are still fair game to be looked at and have the evidence evaluated as it comes in, but I think it’s clear, based upon the evidence we’ve heard thus far, that the evidence against Justice Loughry certainly stands out more so than the other justices.”
Committee Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer, called the timing of the release disappointing, coming just days before the committee is scheduled to meet in executive session to discuss the definitions of impeachment. He called out Democrats for partisanship as committee hearings evaluate whether other justices committed impeachable violations.
“It seems once we start developing evidence that implicates their favorites on the Court, they want to direct attention back to Justice Loughry,” Shott told “Talkline.”
The committee heard evidence last week concerning Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justice Robin Davis. Fluharty said nothing that he’s heard against them rises to the level of impeachment.
Shott said Fluharty and all of the other Democrats in the House voted unanimously with Republicans, 89-0, during a special session this summer to move forward with impeachment hearings on the entire Court — and that’s what he plans to do.
“We ought to look at all of the evidence and make one recommendation as to one or more of the justices to impeach and go forward in a consistent and prepared manner with that trial of one or more persons,” Shott said.
Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, John Shott (R-Mercer), joins @HoppyKercheval to respond to the House Democrats’ calls for the immediate impeachment of former Justice Allen Loughry. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIAoe1 pic.twitter.com/kg0xbOK9Le
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) August 1, 2018
Staging a joint trial before the state Senate, Shott contends, “will be much more efficient and much less likely to trigger partisanship especially if their histories are with different parties. We’d also be less likely to inconvenience the witnesses.”
Fluharty on Wednesday repeated allegations that Republicans are dragging their feet to stretch beyond the Aug. 14 deadline for placing replacement candidates on the November ballot. He claimed the GOP prefers for Gov. Jim Justice to appoint a Republican replacement for the remaining two years of the term.
“This is much bigger than political theater, and I believe by delaying this for so long there are political intentions behind this and that’s the driving force and that’s what’s really frustrating,” Fluharty said. “Because at the end of the day it’s taking the power away from the people where it belongs, and that power is in November.”
.@WVUFLU joins @HoppyKercheval to explain why House Democrats are demanding immediate action in the impeachment of former Justice Allen Loughry. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIAoe1 pic.twitter.com/giqMSK2TVk
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) August 1, 2018
Shott countered that Democrats are getting the Supreme Court election they want now that former Justice Menis Ketchum’s has retired and pleaded guilty to fraud. The filing period for that race begins Monday.
Six days of testimony have transpired over five weeks — covering the use of state property at Loughry’s personal residence, the inflated cost of renovations of all of the justices’ capitol offices, and the sometimes pressurized atmosphere some staffers faced working at the Supreme Court. Shott said the process has been slowed by negotiations with lawyers of potential witnesses and awaiting delivery of subpoenaed documents.
Shott claimed he has tried to accommodate requests of the Democratic judiciary committee members, including potential testimony by Loughry’s wife, who has retained a lawyer, and a tour of Supreme Court offices that was delayed several times and is now scheduled for Monday.
Fluharty said the committee shouldn’t have to keep hearing the same redundant evidence “over and over and over again when it comes to Justice Loughry, which is what is happening right now. It’s frankly it’s a waste of taxpayer money and time. Enough is enough, let’s move forward with this.”
Loughry is currently free on bail after being arraigned on 23 federal criminal counts alleging misuse of state funds, lying to a federal agent and obstruction of justice. He’s also named in a 32-count statement of charges from the Judicial Investigation Commission for allegedly violating the Judicial Code of Ethics. He’s been suspended from the state Supreme Court without pay.
Ketchum has entered a federal information with federal prosecutors and will plead guilty in the near future to one count of wire fraud.