WV Supreme Court Justice Suspended

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry was suspended from the bench Friday over allegations that he repeatedly lied and used his public office for personal gain.

In an order from the high court, Loughry was suspended without pay and barred from hearing any civil or criminal matters during a judicial disciplinary process.

The move prompted West Virginia House Speaker Tim Armstead to call for Loughry's resignation, saying the allegations have "cast a pall" over the court. Later Friday, Gov. Jim Justice issued a statement saying, "If the charges are accurate, I would urge Justice Loughry to resign and spare the court and state any further embarrassment."

This week, the state Judicial Investigation Commission filed a 32-count complaint with the court that alleges Loughry "made false statements with the deliberate attempt to deceive" concerning his involvement in the renovation of his office. He also failed to tell other justices about a federal subpoena, had furniture moved from his Capitol office to his home and improperly used state vehicles for personal use.

A message left in Loughry's Supreme Court office Friday afternoon was not returned. Loughry has repeatedly denied involvement in the office renovations. One such denial came during an appearance before the House Committee on Finance in January.

The current Supreme Court justices recused themselves from participating in issuing the order. The court did not take action on a request to suspend Loughry's law license.

Loughry was removed as chief justice in February after the justices learned that he had kept secret a federal subpoena that was served on the Supreme Court in December.

Armstead, a Republican from Kanawha, called the allegations against Loughry serious and said Loughry did not answer questions truthfully while under oath before the House committee.

"This situation has cast a pall over our state's highest court and undermined the public's confidence in our judicial system. It's time to begin repairing that damage," Armstead said in a news release Friday.

The judicial commission has alleged Loughry had an expensive desk moved from 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.

Also detailed in the complaint were allegations that Loughry improperly used a state vehicle for personal reasons. On one trip in December 2013, Loughry's personal calendar listed a West Virginia University basketball game in Morgantown and appointments involving his mother.

(KA)