by Ron Gregory
CHARLESTON – Insisting that there is evidence to impeach state Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry, Democrat members of the house judiciary committee have prepared articles of impeachment and are demanding a vote by Republican leadership.
“Enough is enough,” said Barbara Evans Fleischauer, Minority Chair of the committee. “We have been in special session looking at this for over five weeks and the evidence we have seen on Justice Loughry just confirms what was already found in three prior investigations. Former Justice Ketchum has not only resigned, but he’s agreed to plead guilty to federal charges with the United States Attorney. Despite a 23-count indictment, Justice Loughry doesn’t appear willing to do the same.”
“Clearly, the judiciary committee should pass these articles of impeachment against Justice Loughry now and recommend the senate impeach him,” Fleischauer added. “Although remaining justices have been cleared of ethics charges, if the committee chooses to continue looking at their conduct, nothing prevents us from doing so.”
Democrats note that a swift impeachment process would clear the way for voters to choose a replacement to complete Loughry’s term. Capitol observers have said Republicans want to hold off on any impeachment until a mid-August date passes, allowing GOP Governor Jim Justice to name the replacement.
“This whole process has become very political and the judicial branch should always operate immune from political shenanigans,” said Shawn Fluharty, committee minority vice-chair. “We have eight articles of impeachment — any one is sufficient for Justice Loughry’s removal. The power of choosing our next Supreme Court Justice should belong to the people of West Virginia, not politicians and lobbyists in a back room. Any attempt to take power away from the people and pack the court wreaks of the very corruption we are trying to stop.”
Delegate Mike Pushkin introduced House Resolution 4 during the regular session on February 5 to initiate an impeachment inquiry on Justice Loughry. “Here we are six months after I filed my resolution, more than a month after we convened this impeachment proceeding, and nothing has happened,” Pushkin said. An attempt to limit the time the inquiry could take was defeated along near party-line votes during the regular session.
All members of the Democratic Judiciary Caucus are urging consideration of their articles of impeachment as soon as possible, according to Fleischauer.