Some lawmakers call for impeachment proceedings against Justice Allen Loughry
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) —
Some state Democratic legislative leaders called for impeachment proceedings against West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry, while the state Senate president said the justice should immediately resign.
On Wednesday, Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, called the allegations in the 22 charges in the indictment against Loughry “troubling,” but stressed that under the American system of justice, Loughry is considered innocent until he is proven guilty.
“There is an established system in place to adjudicate and fairly resolve this matter,” Carmichael said in a news release. “Nevertheless, the confidence and workmanship in the judicial branch of government must be held to the highest standards of propriety and respect. Therefore, Justice Loughry should immediately resign his position as justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.”
Carmichael said Loughry’s opportunity to defend himself against these serious allegations “should not be conducted from his current role as justice. Furthermore, the court must work diligently to rebuild the public’s trust that citizens deserve from the highest court in our state. May we all pray for a fair, judicious, prompt resolution to this unfortunate event.”
Meanwhile, state Senate and House Democratic leaders renewed their call for immediate legislative action on Loughry, calling for impeachment proceedings.
“The announcement today of the federal indictment of Supreme Court Justice Loughry is not surprising,” House of Delegates Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, said in a news release. “The governor and Republican leadership must take immediate action, and I am hoping that perhaps today’s news will prompt them to finally initiate an impeachment proceeding. Continued delay reflects tacit indifference to his behavior.”
Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, said as Democratic leaders stated in a June 8 letter to the governor, Carmichael and House Speaker Tim Armstead “our citizens deserve to be protected against corruption, and the Legislature must stand strong against Justice Loughry’s abuse of power.”
Miley said there are some things in the indictment and a Judicial Investigation Commission report that are not in dispute, such as the facts that Loughry took state furniture home and used a state car for personal trips.
“Any other state employee would have been charged with larceny. Impeachment proceedings are designed to remove an elected official from public office if he/she has engaged in behavior that undermines the integrity of the office. What more do Republican leaders need to know for them to decide that Justice Loughry has undermined the integrity of the judiciary?” Miley said.
Prezioso said the governor should call a special session to allow the impeachment process to begin so people can elect a new Supreme Court justice in November.
Other Democratic legislators from around the state voiced support for immediate action by the Legislature.
“Democrats in the Legislature have for many months spoken about the overwhelming evidence of Justice Loughery’s corruption, and have demanded an impeachment hearing because it will allow our state to begin to put the torrid affair behind us,” Del. Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, said. “This politically inspired procrastination has only prolonged the long shadow of corruption.”
Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, said it is beyond time for the House to impeach Loughry.
“I called for actions months ago and this Republican leadership just stalled and ignored it in order to protect one of their own,” Ojeda said. “The governor and House must act now.”
Meanwhile, Republican Party Chairwoman Melody Potter in a news release called the allegations against Loughry “very troubling.”
“If proven true, the allegations against him are unacceptable misconduct and abuse by an elected official of any political party,” Potter said. “As our U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said, Justice Loughry maintains a presumption of innocence until otherwise found guilty by our legal system.”
Potter said the state Constitution provides the Legislature, the elected voice of the people, the authority to address elected officials who engage in misconduct, misappropriation of public funds, or inappropriate activity.
“I urge our elected leaders in the Legislature to appropriately evaluate these developments and determine what actions, if any, are warranted. As the people’s elected leaders, this is their obligation to our Constitution and to the people of our great state,” Potter said.
Wednesday night, Gov. Jim Justice released a statement saying the indictments sadden him and cast a shadow of negativity on the state.
"The federal indictment of Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry today saddens me. This casts another shadow of negativity on West Virginia, which is certainly something we just plain don’t need. Justice Loughry should immediately resign from office and spare our state any further embarrassment. So many elected officials throughout West Virginia’s history have chosen to do things that are unethical and self-centered. Politicians today are too concerned with getting re-elected and end up doing things that only benefit themselves. We need to change that. We need people in government who genuinely want to serve the people of our state and aren’t concerned with their own self-interest. It’s incredibly sad on the 155th birthday of our Great State that we have to face this issue, but West Virginians should not let these actions by a public official damage their confidence in our state. We are on the move, no matter what anybody says. There are so many great things happening in West Virginia, and I will continue to work every day to move our state forward."