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Davis, Loughry elected to W.Va. Supreme Court

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Supreme Court Justice Margaret Workman is going to need a new clerk.

Allen H. Loughry II, currently a clerk for Workman at the Supreme Court, was elected Tuesday to one of two seats on the five-member court. Incumbent Justice Robin Davis was re-elected to her seat. Both are set to serve 12-year terms.

The two defeated Democrat Letitia "Tish" Chafin, a Charleston lawyer and former president of the West Virginia State Bar, and Republican John Yoder, a circuit judge in the Eastern Panhandle.

With 92 percent of the state's precincts counted, Davis had 271,996 votes and Loughry had 260,367 votes, compared to 230,208 for Yoder and 229,833 for Chafin.

Loughry, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday night, was the only candidate to take part in the state's public financing program. This summer, the state Elections Commission decided not to release more funds to Loughry in the middle of the campaign, claiming that U.S. Supreme Court decisions against other states' campaign finance programs meant West Virginia's was unconstitutional.

First declaring his candidacy as an independent, Loughry announced in September 2011 that he would run as a Republican. At the time, he mentioned his conservative financial and social values. He also said he would support nonpartisan elections for judicial positions.

In 2006, Loughry wrote a book called, "Don't Buy Another Vote, I Won't Pay for a Landslide: The Sordid and Continuing History of Political Corruption in West Virginia."

An Elkins native, he earned his undergraduate degree at West Virginia University; his law degree at Capital University School of Law in Columbus, Ohio; and two master of law degrees from American University and the University of London.

Before he clerked for Workman, Loughry served as a clerk for former Supreme Court Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard and as a senior assistant state attorney general.

During her re-election campaign, Davis emphasized her efforts to modernize the rules of filing appeals to the Supreme Court to make sure decisions about accepting or rejecting cases for appeal are made on the basis of the merits of each case.

Davis also initiated programs to help the court work with children and families throughout the state, including: expanding parent education programs, creating an online database about child abuse and neglect and initiating new rules about child abuse and neglect proceedings.

"I think clearly West Virginia has responded to my positive message," Davis said after her victory Tuesday. I am really proud of my record on the court. I look forward to continuing my work for the people of West Virginia. I have worked with 13 justices over 15 years.

"I will always put the Constitution and the rule of law before everything else. I want to continue to be a consensus builder on our court. I am looking forward to getting my focus back on the work at the court. Tomorrow, I will be rolling up my sleeves and getting back to the real tasks at hand."

Asked about having to work as a justice and to campaign for re-election, Davis said, "It has been very, very difficult, very taxing. Because elections are political races, you have to do it if you want to maintain your position and keep your seat. It has been a tough 14 months. But the hard work has paid off," Davis said during a telephone interview.

Born and raised in Boone County, where her mother was a schoolteacher/administrator and her father was a coal miner. Davis graduated from Van High School, earned a bachelor's degree at West Virginia Wesleyan College, then earned her master's and law degrees from West Virginia University.

Initially elected to a four-year unexpired term in 1996, Davis won election to her first 12-year term in 2000.

During this year's election, Davis was supported by several associations of police and firefighters, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, United Auto Workers, several construction trades unions, the West Virginia Medical Political Action Committee and the state Bankers Association PAC.

Chafin, wife of state Sen. Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, called during the campaign for rules that would make justices explain in writing their reasons for remaining on a case if lawyers wanted them off the case for a perceived conflict of interest.

"The Supreme Court needs to be fair, balanced and transparent," Chafin said Tuesday before the polls closed. "Transparency is a rule that calls for a disclosure of any correspondences that take place between another judicial officer and a member of the court."

Two years ago, Yoder narrowly lost a Supreme Court race to incumbent Justice Thomas McHugh, who was filling out the final two years of the term of Justice Joe Albright, who died in March 2009.

Late Monday evening, Yoder said, "I just congratulated Justice Davis and Allen Loughry and wished them the best. I really don't have much else to say.

"The good thing for me is that I still have a job, which I like very much, as a circuit judge in the Eastern Panhandle, a very beautiful part of the state. That is the positive thing for me."

Yoder served in the West Virginia Senate between 1992 and 1996, then again between 2004 and 2008. He practiced law in Harpers Ferry between 1985 and 2008, then became a circuit judge in the Eastern Panhandle.

The Supreme Court's other three justices are Workman and Menis Ketchum, both Democrats, and Brent Benjamin, a Republican. Benjamin's seat is the next up for election in 2016.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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