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West Virginia Supreme Court Justice suspended without pay

West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry has been suspended without pay. (West Virginia Supreme Court)

West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry has been suspended without pay by the court while his disciplinary proceedings play out.

In the supreme court's suspension order, it says in part that "there is probable cause to believe that the respondent has engaged or is currently engaging in serious violations of the code of judicial conduct."

The court also requested suspension of Loughry's license to practice law in West Virginia during the judicial disciplinary proceedings.

The Judicial Investigation Commission filed 32 charges against Loughry Wednesday and recommended he be suspended without pay while the disciplinary proceedings against him move forward. On Friday, the court ordered Loughry be suspended.

Loughry is accused of several violations of the state judicial code, including lying to Eyewitness News reporter Kennie Bass during an interview. Bass first broke the story of extravagant supreme court spending last November, which included Loughry selecting a $32,000 couch for his office.

Loughry denied involvement in the remodeling of his office and blamed former court administrator Steve Canterbury for the expensive purchases. The JIC determined that was not true.

The complaint said Loughry kept secret a December federal subpoena served on the Supreme Court. Loughry was replaced as chief justice in February after the justices received another subpoena and found out about the first one.

"The commission finds that there is probable cause to believe that Justice Loughry engaged in a pattern of lying and using his public office for private gain," the complaint said.

On Thursday, an administrative order filed at the Supreme Court indicated that all five justices - Chief Justice Margaret Workman, Robin Davis, Menis Ketchum, Loughry and Elizabeth Walker - have voluntarily recused themselves from participating in the case involving Loughry. The order also names Kanawha Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit to serve as acting chief justice in the case and directs her to appoint four other acting justices to preside with her.

Loughry has been embroiled in controversy along with the other justices over questionable Supreme Court spending – revealed in an Eyewitness News iTeam investigative story – that showed a $900,000 renovation project ballooned to more than $3.7 million.

The total cost for the work in Loughry’s office was just more than $363,000, but that included some major expenditures for office furniture. Namely, the sectional sofa with a price tag of nearly $32,000, complete with $1,700 in throw pillows.

Loughry maintained he did nothing wrong and only had limited involvement in the work plans, and he pointed at former court administrator Steve Canterbury as being in charge of making the decisions on renovations. Canterbury, however, said Loughry was intricately involved.

A drawing made by Loughry himself, however, was obtained by the iTeam. It showed a $7,500 wood medallion in the floor of his office and outlines the floor plan for his office with detailed notes from Loughry about what he wanted and where he wanted it.

News of the Supreme Court expenditures created a firestorm in the West Virginia Legislature with several lawmakers calling for an investigation of Loughry and possibly impeachment proceedings.

After much of the controversy surfaced, the justices voted to replace Loughry as chief justice and make Justice Margaret Workman the chief justice.

Meanwhile, Loughry also was lambasted in a state audit, spurred by Eyewitness News iTeam investigative stories, about how Loughry used vehicles, including rental cars when he traveled for conferences. The audit found he used the vehicles for personal use because of the mileage he drove.

A calendar from the legislative auditor’s report showing Loughry’s state vehicle use indicated he failed to provide a destination or a description or a need for the vehicle.

Loughry issued a letter saying he disagrees with the audit's findings, which include a section that says he was wrong to take home a historic Cass Gilbert desk from the Capitol and not report it as a benefit. That desk has been appraised at $42,000.

Records obtained by the iTeam later showed that more than $2,400 was spent for two occasions to have furniture moved from Loughry’s chambers to the state warehouse. However, that total includes the cost of moving the Cass Gilbert desk and a sofa that was removed from Loughry’s office. Both of those items were taken to his house. Loughry contends he was setting up a home office as allowed by court policy. However, the court has no written policy on home offices. Loughry ordered a new desk and a new $32,000 couch for his chambers when he took office in January 2013.

In 2012, Loughry was elected to a 12-year term on the Supreme Court and served as chief justice in 2017. The court voted to replace Loughry as chief justice in February 2018.

A native of Tucker County, he obtained law degrees from American University, Washington College of Law, the University of London and Capital University School of law.

The AP contributed to this report.

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