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WV Justice Loughry has state-owned desk removed from his house

By PHIL KABLER

Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For the second time in four days, Supreme Court employees used a state van Thursday to remove property from Chief Justice Allen Loughry’s Charleston home.

The workers Thursday afternoon removed a desk from Loughry’s home on Scenic Drive and moved it to a Supreme Court warehouse in Kanawha City.

Speculation had been that the desk was one of the five original justices’ desks from when the East Wing of the Capitol opened in 1927. The original walnut desks are informally referred to as “Cass Gilbert” desks for the Capitol architect, who also oversaw selection of original furnishings for Capitol offices.
However, in a statement Thursday, Supreme Court spokeswoman Jennifer Bundy said the desk in question is a “Cass Gilbert” desk, but not the one that was most recently used by former Justice Thomas McHugh in his Capitol office.

“It is the desk that Chief Justice Loughry used for 10 years when he was a law clerk,” Bundy said.

Before his election to the court in 2012, Loughry had been a clerk for justices Elliot “Spike” Maynard and Margaret Workman.

Bundy also reiterated that it is court policy to provide state-funded computers and furnishings to justices so they can maintain home offices at their homes, and said the return of the desk Thursday did not imply that it was inappropriate for Loughry to have it in his house.

“It is entirely appropriate for Supreme Court justices to have desks and computers for their home offices due to their heavy caseload and amount of time they spend working at home,” she said.

Bundy said the work of a justice is not a 9-to-5 job, and said justices must deal with emergency matters during evenings and other times when the court is not in session.

“Nevertheless, the desk has been taken to storage until it is needed in another Supreme Court office,” she added. “The desk was not returned because its use was inappropriate, but because issues such as this are becoming an obstacle to the court completing its important work.”

On Monday, following an item in a Gazette-Mail political column Sunday regarding the whereabouts of a leather couch that had gone missing from Supreme Court offices, Loughry had court employees remove a leather couch from his home and move it to the court warehouse.

Subsequently, Loughry said the couch was not state property, but had been purchased by the late Justice Joe Albright, and said neither Albright’s widow nor his son wanted the couch, and told him to keep it.

Bundy further clarified that the couch was not a gift to Loughry, since the state Ethics Act prohibits public officials from accepting gifts valued at more than $25, but was considered to be abandoned property.

Loughry also said that while the couch was not state property, upon returning it, he donated it to the state, avoiding another potential ethical issue, which bars public officials from storing private property in state-owned facilities.

“I decided I no longer wanted this couch under any circumstances,” he said Monday. “I did not want to keep getting accused of things. It’s just not worth it. As far as I am concerned, it is now state property donated to the state of West Virginia.”

Bundy has denied requests from the Gazette-Mail to visit the warehouse and photograph the furnishings.

Reach Phil Kabler at [email protected], 304-348-1220, or [email protected] on Twitter.

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