Former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen H. Loughry II appeared in Wayne Circuit Court on Feb. 20, 2019, to stipulate to ethics charges. (LAWRENCE J. SMITH/Courthouse News Service)
WAYNE, W. Va. (CN) – Facing a two-year prison term for his misuse of state funds, a former West Virginia Supreme Court justice appeared in court again Wednesday to stipulate to related ethics charges.
The 32-count statement of charges says Allen H. Loughry II, while serving as chief justice of the state Supreme Court in 2017, “clearly lied … about his level of involvement in the design and renovation of his office.”
Totaling $363,000, the renovations to Loughry’s office were part of a $3.7 million renovation to the entire court. Loughry came under fire for spending $32,000 on a sectional made of blue suede, $1,700 for a throw pillow and $7,500 for a custom wooden medallion of the state embedded in the floor.
News reports of the extravagant furnishings quickly fueled public backlash, but Loughry insisted in interviews at the time that the overspending was the fault of Steve Canterbury, the administrative director he fired after becoming chief justice.
Two weeks later a federal grand jury indicted Loughry on 22 criminal charges including wire fraud, mail fraud and lying to federal investigators.
Following his October conviction in 11 of the criminal charges, Loughry was sentenced last week to two years in federal prison.
Loughry made his ethics admission today in Wayne Circuit Court, stipulating to eight of the charges against him.
Judicial Investigation Commission counsel Teresa Tarr emphasized today that, rather than an admission of guilt, Loughry is agreeing there is enough evidence to prove he violated the Cannon of Judicial Ethics.
Loughry has agreed to disbarment and never again hold elective or appointed office in West Virginia.
Tarr said the commission is recommending that Loughry be censured, fined $3,000 and made to reimburse it $5,871.12 for investigative costs.
After calling him to the stand, Tarr described Loughry’s lies as “reprehensible” and said they eroded the public’s confidence in the courts.
“We can expect no less of the lawyers and judges who come into our courtroom,” Tarr said.
Darrell Pratt, a circuit judge who serves as vice-chairman of the Judicial Hearing Board, was appointed as examiner for the hearing. Pratt said the commission’s recommendations would be given to the board for consideration at its next meeting. Once it decides to accept or modify the recommendations, the board will present its findings to the Supreme Court.