Top judicial ethics stories of 2018
Of the 5 justices who were on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in late 2017, only 2 were still on the Court in late 2018:
- 1 justice resigned in June 2018 and subsequently pled guilty to a federal criminal charge.
- 1 resigned in August after being impeached by the House of Delegates.
- 1 resigned in November; there were pending judicial discipline charges against him, he had been impeached, and he had been convicted of federal criminal charges.
Of the 2 remaining:
- 1 was impeached in August but was acquitted after a trial in October although the senate reprimanded and censured her.
- 1 was impeached in August, but, in October, the Court, with 5 acting justices sitting, prohibited the senate from proceeding with the prosecution.
Following is a timeline of the events in West Virginia:
The justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals elect Justice Allen Loughry as Chief Justice.
The justices change the rule to increase the term for chief justice from 1 year to 4 years and elect Justice Loughry to a full 4-year term.
WCHS-TV begins a series of reports on spending by the Court, particularly hundreds of thousands of dollars for renovating the justices’ chambers in 2013. Other media reports follow.
Chief Justice Loughry meets with federal law enforcement representatives to report his concerns about spending by the other justices and the former administrative director of the Court. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office begin investigating possible misuse of funds by the justices.
Federal investigators serve a subpoena on the Court.
The other justices vote to remove Justice Loughry as chief justice after learning he did not tell them about the federal subpoena. Justice Margaret Workman is chosen as chief justice.
The Judicial Investigation Commission files a formal statement of charges against Justice Loughry. The charges allege that the justice:
- Used a state vehicle on 148 days for personal uses, including book signings for his 2006 book on public corruption in West Virginia, entitled Don’t Buy Another Vote, I Won’t Pay for a Landslide;
- Made false statements about his involvement in the renovation of his office in testimony before the House of Delegates Committee on Finance while under oath, in 2 media interviews, and in an op-ed piece;
- Kept a federal subpoena secret from the other justices;
- Had a valuable antique desk moved from his court office to his home by a moving service paid for by the Court and, after reporters began asking questions, returned the desk, using court employees and a court van;
- Had a couch moved from his court office to his home;
- Had new court computers installed in his home for personal use by himself, his wife, and his son; and
- Told the public information officer for publication that the Court had a long-standing practice of allowing a justice to furnish a home office with court-provided equipment and furniture when, in fact, there was no policy beyond providing computer equipment.
The Court suspends Justice Loughry without pay pending the outcome of the disciplinary proceedings.
Justice Loughry is indicted on 22 federal charges: 18 counts of wire or mail fraud, 1 count of witness tampering, and 3 counts of lying to federal investigators. The fraud counts allege that he claimed mileage for trips on which he drove a court vehicle and used a government credit card for gasoline; received reimbursement from the Pound Institute for his travel expenses to an event in Baltimore, despite having used a state-owned vehicle and a state government credit card; used government vehicles and government credit cards for personal use; lied to other justices about his vehicle usage; and unlawfully converted to his own personal use a valuable desk that belonged to the Court.
Pursuant to the governor’s proclamation, the legislature holds a special session “to consider matters relating to the removal of one or more Justices of the Supreme Court of Appeals” and passes a resolution authorizing the House Committee on the Judiciary to investigate impeachable offenses.
The Judicial Hearing Board stays the disciplinary proceedings against Justice Loughry pending the federal criminal proceedings.
Justice Menis Ketchum resigns.
The House Judiciary Committee begins hearings on whether to impeach the remaining 4 justices.
The House Judiciary Committee recommends 14 articles of impeachment against Chief Justice Workman, Justice Loughry, Justice Robin Davis, and Justice Elizabeth Walker.
The House of Delegates adopts 11 articles of impeachment. Justice Loughry is named in 7 of the articles, Chief Justice Workman in 4, Justice Davis in 4, and Justice Walker in 1.
The articles charge that:
- All 4 justices “waste[d] state funds with little or no concern for the costs to be borne by the tax payers for unnecessary and lavish spending for various purposes;” failed to prepare and adopt sufficient and effective travel policies; failed to “report taxable fringe benefits, such as car use and regular lunches, on Federal W-2s;” failed to “provide proper supervision, control, and auditing of the use of state purchasing cards leading to multiple violations of state statutes and policies regulating the proper use of such cards;” failed to “prepare and adopt sufficient and effective home office policies;” and failed to “provide effective supervision and control over record keeping with respect to the use of state automobiles,” inventories of state property owned by the courts, and purchasing procedures.
- Justice Loughry spent approximately $363,000 in the renovation of his personal office, including a $31,924 couch and a $33,750 floor with a medallion; “cause[d] a certain desk, of a type colloquially known as a ‘Cass Gilbert’ desk, to be transported from the State Capitol to his home . . . ;” “intentionally acquire[d] and use[d] state government vehicles for personal use;” “intentionally acquire[d] and use[d] state government computer equipment and hardware for predominately personal use;” and “made statements while under oath before the West Virginia House of Delegates Finance Committee, with deliberate intent to deceive, regarding renovations and purchases for his office . . . .”
- Justice Davis spent approximately $500,000 in the renovation of her personal office, including a rug that cost approximately $20,500, a desk chair that cost approximately $8,000, and over $23,000 in design services.
- Justice Workman, Justice Davis, and Justice Loughry when they were chief justice signed and approved contracts, forms, and/or administrative orders that provided for the payment of senior status judges over the maximum salary for senior status judges set by statute.
Justice Davis resigns.
Former justice Ketchum pleads guilty in federal court to 1 felony count of wire fraud, admitting to repeated personal use of a state vehicle and fuel credit card for travel to and from his home and a private golf club in western Virginia.
At a pre-trial conference for the Senate impeachment trial, Chief Justice Workman, Justice Walker, and the House members serving as prosecutors submit a proposed agreement that would have provided for the dismissal of the articles of impeachment, but the Senate votes to reject the settlement.
Chief Justice Workman files a petition for a writ of prohibition asking that the Court stay and halt the impeachment proceedings “because they are premised on unconstitutional articles.”
Following a 2-day impeachment trial, the Senate votes 32-1 to acquit Justice Walker but does reprimand and censure her.
The Court, with 5 acting justices sitting by temporary assignment, prohibits the state senate from prosecuting impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Workman, finding that the articles of impeachment violated the separation of powers clause and that her due process rights had been violated. The Court directs that the mandate be issued immediately.
A jury convicts Justice Loughry on 11 federal charges: 7 counts of wire fraud, 2 counts of making false statements to federal investigators, and 1 count each of witness tampering and mail fraud. The jury acquits him of 9 counts of wire fraud and 1 count of mail fraud and deadlocks on 1 count of wire fraud.
The Judicial Investigation Commission files an amended formal statement of charges to add a count regarding Justice Loughry’s conviction of a crime and moves to lift the stay and expedite the proceedings.
In a proclamation, the governor convenes the legislature for a special session on November 13 “to consider matters relating to the removal of Allen Loughry, Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, including, but not limited to, censure, impeachment, trial, conviction, and disqualification.”
Justice Loughry resigns.
The House of Delegates files with the U.S. Supreme Court a petition for a writ of certiorari arguing that the decision prohibiting the impeachment of Chief Justice Workman “violates the guarantee clause of the United States Constitution by eviscerating the state’s republican form of government.”
Loughry’s motion for a new trial on wire fraud and mail fraud charges is denied; his conviction on 1 count of witness tampering is vacated.
Loughry’s second motion for a new trial, based on social media activity by 1 juror, is denied.
Loughry is sentenced to 24 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $1,273 to the state and the Pound Civil Justice Institute.
In an agreement to dispose of the statement of charges, Loughry agrees to be disbarred, to never serve in public office in the state again, and to pay costs, and disciplinary counsel agrees to recommend that he be publicly censured/reprimanded and fined $3,000.
Former justice Ketchum is sentenced to 3 years of probation, fined $20,000, and ordered to pay restitution to the state.
The West Virginia Senate files a petition for a writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court raising the issues: “1) Whether Guarantee Clause claims are judicially cognizable?” and “2) Whether a state judiciary’s intrusion into the impeachment process represents so grave a violation of the doctrine of separation of powers as to undermine the essential components of a republican form of government?”
Accepting the recommendation of the Judicial Hearing Board, based on an agreement, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals censures and reprimands Loughry, annuls his license to practice law in the state, permanently enjoins him from seeking public office by election or appointment in the state, fines him $3,000, and orders that he pay costs of $5,871.12.