Embattled West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Loughry resigns

CHARLESTON — Days before lawmakers were scheduled to hold another special session to draw up a new article of impeachment, Justice Allen Loughry saved them the trouble and has resigned.

Gov. Jim Justice announced Loughry’s resignation Saturday evening, a day after he called a special session for Tuesday to start a new impeachment process against the former chief justice.

“I hereby resign my position as a justice on the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia at the close of business on November 12, 2018,” Loughry wrote in his one-sentence resignation letter.

Lawmakers had planned to draw up a new article of impeachment based on Loughry’s Oct. 13 conviction in U.S. District Court on 11 felonies, including mail and wire fraud, witness tampering, and making false statements. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia indicted Loughry in June on 22 federal charges.

Loughry is slated for sentencing on Jan. 18, 2019, and could face up to 190 years in federal prison and up to $2.75 million in fines. He was also scheduled to appear before the Judicial Hearing Board on Jan. 16, 2019, to answer for a 33-count complaint from the Judicial Investigation Commission though it’s unclear if that case will continue. It’s also unclear if Tuesday’s special session on impeachment will go forward now that Loughry has resigned.

The House of Delegates investigated Loughry over the summer and all the justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals at the time — Chief Justice Margaret Workman, Justice Beth Walker, and former justice Robin Davis. The House adopted 11 articles of impeachment, with Loughry named in seven article.

Loughry came under media scrutiny in November of 2017 over the $363,000 cost of his office renovations and furnishings and taking a Cass Gilbert desk and a couch donated to the court to his home. Later on, legislative audits and the impeachment investigation revealed Loughry used state vehicles and fuel cards for personal use, used state computers at his home for use by his family, and lied under oath to a legislative committee.

First elected to the bench in 2012, Loughry was a former gubernatorial and congressional aid, a former assistant state attorney general, and a law clerk for the late Justice Spike Maynard.

Loughry was originally scheduled to face an impeachment trial Monday but a ruling by an all-appointed supreme court Oct. 12 said an impeachment trial against Workman had to stop — a ruling that also applied to impeachment trials for Loughry and Davis.

Walker was acquitted by the state Senate Oct. 2 and censured.

Loughry’s resignation means that Justice will get to appoint a new justice to the high court. He appointed former House Speaker Tim Armstead and former Third District Congressman Evan Jenkins in September to replace former justice Menis Ketchum and Davis. Both Armstead and Jenkins won special elections Nov. 6 to fill the seats permanently.

The next step is for the Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission to meet and start accepting applications. Once the JVAC sends names to the governor, he will pick a replacement for Loughry. A special election to fill the remainder of Loughry’s term will be held in May 2020. Loughry’s seat is up for election again in 2024.

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