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Editorial: Best step for Loughry and state: his resignation

June 14, 2018 GMT

In trying to determine the next logical step for suspended West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry, an examination of the West Virginia Judicial Code of Conduct might be in order.

The preamble to that code notes that the state’s judiciary should be “composed of men and women of integrity.” Based on the allegations against Loughry, there’s strike one against his continued service on the state’s highest court.

The preamble goes on to say that “inherent in all the Rules contained in this code are the precepts that judges ... must respect and honor the judicial office as a public trust ...” Strike two.

Another section of that preamble advises that members of the judiciary must “avoid both impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in their professional and personal lives.” Again, based on the complaints against Loughry, that would appear to be strike three.

Accumulating three strikes, of course, means you’re out. And that’s the way it should be for Loughry, who would best serve himself and the state at this point by resigning from his position on the court.

Loughry already is suspended without pay from his court duties, an act decided upon by a special state Supreme Court panel. That came after the state Judicial Investigation Commission last week issued a 32-count complaint saying there is probable cause to believe Loughry violated judicial codes of conduct.

The complaint alleged Loughry “made false statements with the deliberate attempt to deceive” concerning his involvement in the design and renovation of his office. The complaint also said Loughry violated codes of conduct when he had an expensive desk moved from his law clerk’s office at the Capitol to his home without permission or knowledge of the other justices in 2012. He returned the desk last November. It also said he moved a leather couch from his office to his home and had extra court computers installed in his home for personal use by himself, his wife and son.

Also detailed in the complaint were allegations that Loughry improperly used a state vehicle for personal reasons. Loughry signed for a car for a total of 212 days from 2013 to 2016 but failed to list a destination for 148 days.

Loughry had denied any improprieties prior to the judicial ethics complaint, and no public body has made a final determination on the charges against him. However, the detailed complaints against him, along with questions raised about his conduct from various sources, including legislative auditors, spell out a damning case.

Legislative leaders have called for Loughry to resign or face the possibility of impeachment proceedings - a step that Gov. Jim Justice says he is open to. But that’s an unnecessary distraction at the Capitol and, as the governor noted, will only add to the state’s embarrassment. And, unless Loughry can prove the charges against him were made up, he also stands to lose further.

At this point, it seems rather clear that Loughry has not lived up to the judicial standards. He should simply call it quits.