Rush to Judgement

Politics pushing into impeachment issue

Deciding whether to impeach West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry is unpleasant enough without politics rearing its ugly head.

But it has.

For more than three weeks, members of the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee have been discussing whether to recommend that the full House impeach Loughry. Impeachment by the House would lead to a state Senate trial in which he could be removed from office.

Accusations against Loughry, nearly two dozen of them in federal criminal charges, are serious enough that he was suspended by the other justices.

The judiciary committee’s 25 members have been proceeding carefully in questioning witnesses in Loughry’s case. They are required to follow rules that stipulate they cannot hold a vote until their counsel has informed them “all evidence regarding the subject” has been received.

But at least some Democrats on the panel want a vote on impeachment to be held quickly. This week, they issued a press release stating there is enough evidence for the House to deliver articles of impeachment to the state Senate.

But Loughry has not been convicted of any crimes. Prior investigations have, in a way, been no more than allegations — though they have been backed by persuasive evidence.

Judiciary committee Chairman Del. John Shott, R-Mercer, said he was blindsided by the Democrats’ action. They did not even discuss it with him before issuing their press release, he noted.

Committee members are to meet again Monday. They have much more work to do. For one thing, witnesses such as Loughry’s wife have yet to be questioned. For another, they have been looking into the behavior of other Supreme Court justices.

Action by the Democrats is a blatant political stunt.

Voting on Loughry without hearing all the evidence would be both imprudent and wrong. Surely, though impeachment is not a criminal proceeding, it is serious enough to make every effort to ensure justice is done.

In addition, a quick vote on Loughry could short-circuit the committee’s inquiries regarding other justices.

For generations, state government in West Virginia, including the judiciary branch, was handled the political way. Just think for a moment about where that has gotten us.

For a change, then, why not keep politics out of cleaning up the state Supreme Court?

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