Justice’s continued tenure on bench can only further damage court’s credibility

Call this a motion for the suspension of state Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry.

Wednesday, Loughry was named in 32 charges alleging he violated the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct.

Those charges are the result of a months-long investigation by the state’s Judicial Investigation Commission (JIC).

Many of the charges allege he lied when he denied having anything to do with the $363,000 remodeling of his office. The JIC’s evidence includes audio, video, print and even testimony before a House Finance Committee — under oath — denying his role in his office’s redesign and furnishings. For months it remained to be determined who ordered such lavish spending.

The JIC reports it now has detailed notes, drawings, etc. from Loughry describing how he wanted his office to look.

The charges also cite his hiding a federal subpoena from his fellow justices in December 2017.

Apparently, when another subpoena was issued in February, his colleagues got wind of the first one.

Loughry’s fellow justices then proceeded to remove him from his post as the court’s chief justice.

In mid-May, he sent word he would not respond to further inquiries by the JIC after being granted several continuances.

Other charges include using his position for private gain after he “borrowed” an antique desk, linked to the state Capitol’s architect. He had it hauled home when he was a law clerk in 2012, before being elected to the court that year.

A recent legislative audit also determined he repeatedly used court vehicles for personal use and logged a disproportionate number of miles on state-paid rentals while traveling.

In two examples, cited in an April audit, he racked up nearly $1,000 in charges for additional mileage other than from airports to hotels.

Lavish spending was not confined to Loughry’s office, either. Renovations to another justice’s office topped $500,000. Briefly, a report in November described renovations estimated to be $900,000 to the justices’ offices in 2009 eventually cost $3.7 million.

More than $100,000 was spent on each of the justices’ offices, including one that was remodeled less than 10 years earlier.

Another justice was cited for using a court vehicle to commute from Huntington to Charleston for years.

Administration of the high court itself also looks to be in disarray. Just last week, its administrative director resigned with no explanation given. The former longtime court administrator was fired in 2017.

Loughry’s position is indefensible and his continued tenure can only further damage this court’s credibility. The complaint seeks Loughry’s immediate suspension without pay.

We agree. Yet, in any redirect examination one question remains: Why did no one question this spending?

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