CHARLESTON – Investigation into the state of judges concluded by the Supreme Court, the Attorney General for West Virginia West said on Thursday.
“We hope that the uncertainty and uncertainty period in West Virginia's highest court will be around,” The Attorney General Mike Stuart said.
The Attorney General's Office is looking into the Supreme Court from the Chief Justice Allen Loughry asked the office in October 2017 and she asked federal investigators to look at irregularities of expenditure in court. More than 16 months later, Loughry has been serving a two-year sentence after being convicted of 11 federal charges, including wire fraud and persuading investigators.
Former Judge Menis Ketchum was granted a three-year probationary sentence on March 6 after pleading guilty to one offense of wire fraud. Ketchum admitted that he would take a court-owned vehicle and used a state fuel card on a personal golf trip to Virginia.
“While it is needed on behalf of the West Virginia people and defending the rule of law, the pleasure and conviction of former Chief Justice Allen Loughry and information and conviction of former Judge Menis Ketchum did not give me any personal pleasure,” Stuart said. “Instead, my satisfaction is that my office had a significant role in re-establishing the people of West Virginia in the West Virginia Supreme Court.” T
Loughry's charges and convictions arise from the use of court owned vehicles for unofficial personal and business use. It took a state vehicle to a conference outside the state using a state fuel card for gasoline and claiming mileage repayment and not making a refund to the state. He also took court vehicles for multiple personal trips to his home town of Tucker and to book signatures at the Greenbrier Resort, using a state fuel card to fill.
During an interview from federal investigators in March 2018, Lough Garry revealed its use of state vehicles, claiming that it never used a state vehicle for personal use. He also stated that he was familiar with an old desk bought by Cass Gilbert, the architect of the State Capitol Building, that Loughry had delivered to his house for personal use.
The Newry indictment was the catalyst that the House of Delegates investigated all of the court starting in June. Ketchum announced that he was due to retire shortly before the start of this investigation and by July he entered into a plea agreement with the federal authorities.
By August, the other Judges – Lough Garry, Margaret Workman, Robin Davis and Beth Walker – were made to surrender 11 articles arising from taxpayer dollar waste for office reform, payments to senior status judges over a cap, at use of state property for personal use and not having policies in relation to travel, inventory control and purchasing.
Davis resigned shortly after accepting the goods that were going into effect. Walker, the current chief judge, was acquitted of his terrible single article by the Senate, but received criticism. Workman filed a petition to stop his trial trial heard by an all-appointed circuit court group.
The judges ruled in favor of Workman, arguing that the house breached the separation of powers between the two branches and violated their own safety procedures. The ruling stopped the remaining trials for Pond and Davis.
Since January, the Supreme Court has implemented a number of amendments, including limiting the use of court vehicles, computer use policies, purchasing card controls, inventory management and accounting standards. Stuart admitted that the court still has a way to restore confidence.
“This does not mean that there will be no further investigation on other issues at some point in the future, but, now, we are finished with our work,” Stuart said.
“I have often said that public office and public abuse takes place very seriously in this office. There is nothing like a bit of public corruption. ”