‘A good day for the rule of law’: Legal experts weigh in on Loughry federal indictments

Experts said now that Justice Allen Loughry has been indicted, there are certain standards and consequences that the court may impose.

In the hours after suspended West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry was indicted on federal charges, attorneys in the Charleston area said there’s no way to predict exactly what will happen next.

"I think a lot of people talk about how sad today is. As an attorney, frankly, it's a good day for the rule of law,” said Kent Carper, who has practiced law for more than 35 years. "While innocence is still there, this proves that the process works."

Bombshell allegations in federal court - as the U.S. Attorney's Office listed off the 22 charges: 16 counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud, one count of witness tampering and three counts of making false statements to a federal agent.

Carper said now that Loughry has been indicted, there are certain standards and consequences that the court may impose.

"There are ways to remove certain people. Circuit judges are different than a supreme court judge. Under the law, if there was a desire by someone to bring charges against Mr. Loughry in the House of Delegates, it's called an impeachment process. That law exists. I'm not saying they should do it, but there's a procedure for that,” said Carper.

Under state law, Carper said there is a protocol in place for filling a vacant seat on the West Virginia Supreme Court.

"The Judicial Advisory Commission meets, takes applications, and makes a recommendation to the governor. The governor is not bound by that. It's an advisory commission. The governor has the authority to appoint under the constitution. It's a singular responsibility of the governor of the state,” said Carper.

Loughry has law degrees from several universities and the Washington College of Law. His future to practice remains unclear.

"The charges brought by the Judicial Investigation Commission - they did not suspend his license to practice law - they deferred that,” said Carper.

"Now that the federal indictment has been issued, that will take precedence, and the judicial investigation commission's actions to suspect his law license will take a backseat,” said Rob Bastress, an attorney-at-law in downtown Charleston.

A federal judge will be assigned to this case eventually.

"When the U.S. Attorney's Office procures an indictment, I'd say 90 percent of those cases end up in plea deals. I would say, this case is more likely to go to trial than others,” said Bastress.

"Public confidence in all institutions of government has been on the downside. Having said that, although there's been damage done, we have an excellent court system in the state,” said Carper.

If convicted of all the charges, Loughry faces a sentence of up to 395 years, a fine of up to $5.5 million and supervised release period of three years.

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