In advance of next month’s General Election, The Register-Herald invited all candidates on the ballot for U.S. Senator, U.S. House of Representatives, Governor, State Supreme Court, Attorney General and Agriculture Commissioner to appear before our editorial board. During the next several days we will feature those in-depth interviews. Today’s candidate is Republican Allen Loughry running for the West Virginia Supreme Court.
Adding an intermediate appellate court is often discussed/debated in West Virginia. What do you consider some of the pros and cons of an intermediate appellate court?
Loughry: I’ve always been in favor of an intermediate appellate court. I was in favor of an intermediate appellate court before it was popular to be in favor of an intermediate appellate court. I think that this court will allow for a more in-depth review of more complicated cases; and, at the end of the day, I believe it will provide more stability for the court system as a whole.
The argument against the intermediate appellate court seems to come down to money. What an intermediate appellate court is, is not an easy answer. A lot of this comes from the Legislature, in fact, all of this will come from the Legislature, but they should work very closely with the judicial branch in developing an intermediate appellate court. What needs to be determined is what types of cases will be reviewed by such a court. Does an intermediate appellate court also include Worker’s Compensation cases? Does it also include criminal appeals? Does it only deal with civil appeals? So there are a lot of issues with such a court, but I’m in favor of it. In fact, I would like to see two divisions — a northern division and a southern division — for that court.
Explain your views on how transparent the court should be to the public.
Loughry: As you know, I wrote this thin, little book called “Don’t Buy Another Vote, I Won’t Pay for a Landslide” and I believe in openness — always. So, the court should be as transparent as it possibly can be within the confines of any attorney-client types of relationships. As long as there are no ethical rules being violated, absolutely all information should be provided to the public. Period.
Should West Virginia’s highest court be one of activism, or merely confine itself to ruling on the issues of law as spelled out in the State Code and Constitution? Please explain.
Loughry: I believe that the judiciary should be the non-political branch of government. You should want your governors and your legislators to make arguments based upon your philosophical viewpoints. That’s entirely appropriate. You want those individuals passing laws, signing laws that deal with health, safety, welfare and morals; but, you want your judges to follow the law and follow the Constitution. The term “activist” gets thrown around and if you are leaning more toward the left, your talking about somebody that’s left wing, ... I don’t think there’s room for an “activist” on the court from either side of the aisle. I think judges should be judges. They are not legislators.
Is the current makeup of the State Supreme Court one of balance? If so, please say why you feel this way. If not, how can you tilt the scales so that it is balanced?
Loughry: I have worked as a lawyer at the Supreme Court for approximately 10 years. In law school, I worked for a short time for the Ohio Supreme Court. So, I’ve worked with ... more than 20 justices. I believe the Court, right now, is at a better position than I’ve seen it in well more than a decade. And, the question is which direction are we going to go from this day forward?
This election is so critically important. I want to make this point: There are two seats up for election on the Supreme Court this year. There are five members of the West Virginia Supreme Court. Nearly 40 percent of this court will be selected for the next 12 years. That’s critical. I have people coming up to me constantly saying, “Supreme Court, now we vote for that?” So, there’s a lot of confusion out there about this court, but the court is so important because it affects everything that goes on in everybody’s lives. Whether it’s a businessman, or whether it is an average citizen. I think the court is in a better position than it’s been in more than a decade. Again, you’re going to have two positions on the court. One is a pure opening and I believe that I have proven that I can work well with these people. I already have established relationships. My book shows that I can work in a very non-partisan way. And, I will move this court forward. Perceptions don’t change over night, also. It’s going to take some time.
What makes you the best candidate to fill one of the two available seats of the Court and why should voters elect you?
Loughry: I think this election is about ethics. I think this election is about qualifications. I’m an average kid from West Virginia. I was born in Elkins, grew up in Tucker County; and, I think an average kid should be able to still participate in this process at the end of the day. Qualifications: I worked for a governor years ago. I worked for a U.S. Congressman. I spent seven years as a senior assistant attorney general. Remember, this is an appellate position. This is not an extension of a trial court, and, for the last 15 plus years I have worked directly in appellate law. I have argued more than 20 cases in front of the Supreme Court. I have worked on and argued cases at every level of the Federal System, from the Federal district courts to the circuit to the U.S. Supreme Court. I have worked on for the last 10 years more than 2,000 cases that have come before the court.
I believe that I bring something a little different to the court. I want to win this election in a very positive way. If you’re going to be a part of a positive change in West Virginia, you have to be positive in making that change. I was endorsed by the West Virginia State Chamber of Commerce, the Coal Association, the Hospital Association, the Trucking Association, the Medical Association, Farm Bureau, West Virginians for Life, West Virginia Family Foundation and some others. ... I’m a life-long West Virginian. Wonderful wife, Kelly, and a terrific little boy named Justus. His name is Justus Loughry and I also want to be Justice Loughry.