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Editorial: WV Supreme Court should offer people an office inventory

From the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Gazette page: 

Over at the West Virginia Supreme Court palace, it is time for a serious inventory.

Chief Justice Allen Loughry, having written a book on corruption and getting himself elected to the Supreme Court, has been consumed by trivial but expensive trappings of high office.

A couch grew legs and disappeared. Turns out Loughry had it carried to his house. When questioned, he had it carried back, by state employees, in a state vehicle, of course.

First, Loughry said it was OK because the couch didn’t belong to the state. It had been brought in by the late Justice Joe Albright, whose family said it could remain; they did not wish to have it back.

But a public official is prohibited by the state Ethics Act from accepting gifts worth more than $25.

So, if the chief justice did not accept a personal gift for his own benefit, then he carried state property home. Which offense would the chief justice like to plead guilty to?

What pettiness.

And then there was the Cass Gilbert desk. Cass Gilbert, as in the designer of the Capitol, as in one of five such desks original to the Capitol’s East Wing, as in a public treasure. Loughry had it carried from his house back to the state on Thursday, this time to a Supreme Court warehouse in Kanawha City.

How many ways can the court mess this up? Even if the state should provide hardworking justices with offices at home, who could possibly think it is OK to carry off the people’s heirlooms? And now that the public is aware of its legacy, what is the antique doing in a warehouse? Is it being cared for? If the court doesn’t want to use it, could it be located where the people of West Virginia could properly maintain and enjoy it?

Still, the larger issue is how these poor justices can be expected to work in the apparent squalor left them by previous officeholders. No doubt this is why Loughry has been renovating offices — a $32,000 couch, a $7,500 floor medallion — $3.7 million worth so far. And he’s not the only one.

We are sure there are places in the justice system where $3.7 million could do some good. Meanwhile, the court should start working on an inventory of treasures that belong to the people of West Virginia that Supreme Court justices are privileged to work alongside every day. Some pictures would be welcome, too.

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