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Gov. Justice: Voters “Should Have a Say” on WV Supreme Court Replacement

The West Virginia State Capitol will likely soon see an impeachment trial, something that hasn't happened in nearly 30 years. (Dan Heyman)
The West Virginia State Capitol will likely soon see an impeachment trial, something that hasn't happened in nearly 30 years. (Dan Heyman)
July 2, 2018

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice says it would be much better for any replacement named to the West Virginia Supreme Court to face voters this fall.

State lawmakers have started the process to remove sitting Justice Allen Loughry, who faces numerous federal charges. If impeachment happens and the governor names a replacement before August 15, the replacement judge would have to be elected to keep the seat.

Justice said he thinks that would be better than naming someone to finish Loughry's term — as would happen after August 15.

"It's always better to have an election — I mean, there's no question about that,” the governor said. “If need be, you know, I will appoint, but it's always better to hear the people's voice. When that process comes, I will move as expediently as I possibly can."

Some Democratic lawmakers charge that Republican leadership is moving slowly to save a replacement from facing voters. GOP lawmakers say the slow speed of the process is due to its unusual and even historic nature.

Gov. Justice, also a Republican, pointed out that Loughry has not resigned. Instead, Loughry maintains his innocence and looks likely to fight the charges as long as he can.

The state Senate would act as the court in an impeachment proceeding. In the meantime, Republican Senate President Mitch Carmichael pointed out that the Legislature is starting the very serious process - and for the first time in nearly 30 years. He said he thinks it's wrong to accuse them of intentionally slowing it down.

"I think it's inaccurate, and I think it's unfair to portray that in that light,” Carmichael said. “The effort, completely, is to ensure that the process is followed correctly. Both the accused and those who wish to proceed with impeachment have full opportunity to present the facts."

Loughry faces 22 charges, including lying to the FBI and witness tampering to cover up alleged misuse of state property. Republican House Speaker Tim Armstead, an attorney, has said he would like to serve on the state Supreme Court.

The case against Justice Loughry can be followed on the West Virginia Legislature's website, WVlegislature.gov.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV