Farrell sworn in to fill vacancy on West Virginia Supreme Court

Photo by Steven Allen Adams From left, Justice Robin Davis swears in Judge Paul T. Farrell of Huntington as a temporary justice on the West Virginia Supreme Court.

PARKERSBURG — A temporary justice on the West Virginia Supreme Court was sworn in Friday while another judge disagreed in part with the order assigning him.

Judge Paul T. Farrell of the Sixth Circuit in Cabell County was sworn in by Justice Robin Davis in a morning ceremony at the Supreme Court.

“I just want to go to work and to get things done,” said Farrell, who didn’t take questions during the event.

Chief Justice Margaret Workman appointed Farrell on Thursday to serve during the suspension of Justice Allen Loughry.

Loughry was suspended by the court after a complaint was filed by the Judicial Investigations Commission alleging he violated the judicial codes of conduct by lying about his involvement in the costly renovations of the private offices of the Supreme Court. A federal grand jury later indicted him on 23 charges, including fraud and witness tampering.

If the Articles of Impeachment of the four sitting justices on the court proceed to the Senate, Workman’s order also assigns Farrell as acting chief justice during the impeachment proceedings.

The Judiciary Committee this week approved the 14-point articles, which will be voted upon by the full House on Monday. If passed by the House, the Senate would hear the articles and act as a jury.

Farrell could also appoint other justices to preside as needed, according to Workman’s order.

Justice Beth Walker agreed in part and disagreed in part with Workman’s order.

“I agree with the chief justice’s selection of Judge Paul T. Farrell, a distinguished jurist with an exemplary record of service to his community and state, to serve as justice during the suspension of Justice Allen Loughry,” Walker said. “However, I believe it is improper to designate any justice as acting chief justice for impeachment proceedings in which I or my colleagues may have an interest and that have not yet commenced in the Senate.”

Justice Robin Davis also had a response to the administrative order, saying while she, Workman and Walker may be subject to the Articles of Impeachment, “by the rule of necessity, the chief justice is constitutionally charged with appointing a justice to preside.”

“Any statement to the contrary is intellectually flawed and has no basis under our state Constitution,” Davis said.

Farrell’s appointment is a separate issue from the vacancy caused by the resignation of Justice Menis Ketchum, which was effective July 27. Ketchum agreed to plead guilty to a federal information accusing him of fraud over the use of state vehicles and resources, U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart in Charleston announced last week.

The Judicial Vacancy Committee is accepting applications until Tuesday for the appointment to serve until the special election in November for the vacancy on the Supreme Court caused by Ketchum’s resignation.

(Steven Allen Adams contributed to this story.)

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