West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Refuses Request for Recusal

By Jeffrey V. Mehalic
West Virginia Business Litigation

January 19, 2008

The situation regarding the composition of the Supreme Court of Appeals when it takes up the plaintiffs’ motions for reconsideration in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Company, Inc. [ http://www.wvbusinesslitigationblog.com/2008/01/articles/appellate-decisions/chief-justice-recuses-himself-from-massey-case-plaintiffs-renew-disqualification-motion-against-another-justice/ ] has been clarified by Justice Brent Benjamin’s decision yesterday afternoon not to recuse himself from the case, as the Harman companies had requested. I do not have the text of Justice Benjamin’s statement or any order from the Supreme Court, but Paul Nyden’s article in today’s Saturday Gazette-Mail [ http://www.wvgazette.com/section/News/2008011833 ] quotes from the statement.

Here is the statement as quoted in the Nyden article:

The motion seeking disqualification comes over three years after the 2004 election and focuses entirely on that election. It contains nothing about this justice’s record on the court. There are no allegations that this justice has, or has had, any relationship with Mr. Blankenship or any Massey company in his 20-plus years of private practice. Simply accusatory accusations and assumptions are plainly insufficient to support a motion for disqualification.

The plaintiffs, Harman Development Corporation, Harman Mining Corporation, and Sovereign Coal Sales, Inc., renewed their motion to disqualify Justice Benjamin based on the involvement of Massey Energy Company chairman Don Blankenship in the 2004 election in which Justice Benjamin defeated incumbent Justice Warren McGraw. Blankenship provided significant support to Justice Benjamin’s campaign. Here is the companies' motion to disqualify Justice Benjamin [ http://www.wvbusinesslitigationblog.com/Harman%20motion%20to%20disqualify%20Benjamin.pdf ] filed in October 2005.

Also yesterday, Justice Benjamin, who is acting chief justice in this case due to Chief Justice Maynard’s recusal, appointed Circuit Court Judge Donald H. Cookman to serve as the fifth justice when the Court holds its rehearing conference on January 24.

Posted at 7:44 PM

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