CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) — Almost a year to the day after Eyewitness News aired our first iTeam investigation on spending and policies at the West Virginia Supreme Court, suspended Justice Allen Loughry submitted his resignation.
Battered by a guilty verdict in U.S District Court, multiple charges of wrongdoing by the state's Judicial Investigation Commission and facing renewed impeachment and removal of office efforts from the West Virginia House and Senate, Loughry finally threw in the towel, sending his resignation letter to Gov. Jim Justice this weekend, effective at the close of business on Monday.
"Well, I'm very pleased that Justice Loughry has done the right thing and has resigned," Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said. "I think that ends a chapter in West Virginia's judicial history that's been very unfortunate. And we pray for him and his family, but we also welcome the resignation."
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, said lawmakers are "certainly sorry that it's come to this but in light of the federal conviction it certainly was the right thing to do, and we're happy to not have to go through the impeachment proceedings again."
There have been calls for Loughry to step down since Eyewitness News first revealed the court's lavish spending and lack of policies to protect taxpayer money. Loughry's $32,000 couch in his chambers became the symbol of judicial branch excess.
Three of the five justices have stepped down, the remaining two were impeached by delegates and voters approved a constitutional amendment giving the Legislature oversight of the judiciary's budget.
"The articles of impeachment originally adopted by the House still remain pending before the Senate. It's the opinion of the House that our procedures were entirely correct and that everything we did in furtherance of those articles was done according to the way it should have been done. So, if the Senate chooses to take those articles up, they're pending before the Senate now. It's really out of the hands of the House," Hanshaw said.
And voters approved a constitutional amendment giving the Legislature oversight of the judiciary's budget.
With Loughry's impending exit, the governor will appoint a justice to replace him. That person will serve until May 2020, when voters will get the opportunity to select a justice to finish out Loughry's term, which runs until 2024.
Carmichael said he is sure the governor "who's had a great record appointing in my view world-class justices that will interpret the rule of law and interpret the original intent of the law rather than making law from the bench. And so, I'm sure he'll have a good pick and look forward to having a new court."