West Virginia gov OKs session to mull justice impeachment
By JOHN RABY, Associated Press
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Days after a member of the West Virginia Supreme Court pleaded not guilty to criminal charges, Gov. Jim Justice has called the Legislature into special session to determine whether impeachment proceedings should be brought against any member of the court.
The special session will be held Tuesday in Charleston. The Legislature was already meeting in interim session.
The request had been made Monday by Senate President Mitch Carmichael and House Speaker Pro Tempore John Overington. House Speaker Tim Armstead stepped aside from the process to avoid the appearance of conflict because he has indicated he is considering running for a Supreme Court seat in 2020.
According to the request, the state Senate would conduct a trial if the House of Delegates determines impeachment proceedings are necessary. While the request did not mention specific court members, suspended Justice Allen Loughry pleaded not guilty in federal court last week to a 22-count indictment.
The last time the Legislature was involved in similar proceedings was in 1989, when state Treasurer A. James Manchin was impeached by the House of Delegates after the loss of $279 million in state investments in the bond market. Manchin, the uncle of current U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, resigned before the state Senate took up the impeachment measure. He was never charged and the state recovered $55 million from lawsuits against nine New York brokerage firms involved in the losses.
Justice and legislative leaders previously asked Loughry to resign. He has not responded.
The indictment accuses Loughry of making personal use of a state vehicle and credit card, including trips to book signings and to visit family. It says Loughry also sought mileage reimbursements for trips even though he drove a state vehicle and used a government credit card for gas.
The indictment also accuses him of moving a leather couch and a historic, valuable desk from the Supreme Court office to his home during office renovations; and of lying to federal agents about his actions and trying to influence an employee’s testimony.
Loughry faces a maximum prison sentence of 395 years and up to $5.5 million in fines if convicted on all charges.
Loughry was suspended from the bench without pay earlier this month after a state Judicial Investigation Commission filed a 32-count complaint with the court alleging he “made false statements with the deliberate attempt to deceive” concerning his involvement in the renovation of his office. The complaint also said he failed to tell other justices about a federal subpoena, and it contained the accusations about moving office furniture to his home and improperly using state vehicles.
He was removed as chief justice in February after the other justices learned he had kept the federal subpoena secret.
Loughry was a Supreme Court law clerk for nine years before being elected to the court in 2012. He wrote a 2006 book chronicling West Virginia political corruption. Fighting corruption became a major theme of his 2012 court campaign.