CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) — One year ago, the Eyewitness News iTeam began a series of reports on lavish spending at the West Virginia Supreme Court along with a lack of policy in place to protect taxpayer dollars.
Eyewitness News has filed dozens of reports since then on the state's highest court. Here’s a look at the last 12 months and where we go from here.
Since we first introduced you to a certain $32,000 couch, much has changed. Three West Virginia Supreme Court justices have resigned, including Menis Ketchum, Robin Davis and effective at the end of business Monday, Allen Loughry.
Two other justices -- Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justice Beth Walker -- have been impeached. Two former lawmakers, Tim Armstead and Evan Jenkins have been elected to the bench, working alongside Cabell County Circuit Judge Paul Farrell, who's been serving as a temporary replacement for Loughry.
Former West Virginia Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury is the man who made the call to Eyewitness News about the court's lavish spending.
“I heard that (Loughry) was about to be considered for a federal judgeship,” Canterbury said. “He had actually, the word that I had heard was, he was on a short list of those being considered. It alarmed me. It really bothered me. I think people need to know some more about him that they probably don't know before making this lifetime appointment.”
Loughry led the effort to fire Canterbury in Jan. 2017. But it was months later when he contacted the iTeam.
Canterbury said Loughry's actions have damaged the state's entire judicial system.
“He didn't care how much the state had to spend,” Canterbury said. “He didn't care how much pain he put others through. For his own reasons, he waited this long to resign. Perhaps when he's sitting alone in his cell, he'll have time to reflect that just maybe, he should have told the truth instantly. Realized at that moment a year ago he should just resign and saved himself a lot of pain.”
In addition to changes on the bench, voters have now placed the judiciary budget under the supervision of the legislature. It's an effort to control spending and provide accountability to how taxpayer dollars are being used.
Canterbury said the court's healing is far from over, but that the process has begun.
“It's a third branch,” Canterbury said. “The branch that makes sure that the law is upheld and that we are clear in what the law is. Now, everyone is a little less confident that what they're saying is indeed the rule of law and is indeed right. It's going to take a while to get that back.”
Governor Jim Justice has the next move, selecting Loughry's replacement for the high court.
Once that happens and barring anything unforeseen, the state Supreme Court should enjoy a relative period of stability until the 2020 primary election, when voters will select a candidate to finish out Loughry's term to 2024.