When John Grisham writes a novel about your state Supreme Court there may be something wrong. There are four parties in play in this clusterfuck. Don Blankenship, "Spike" Maynard, Brent Benjamin, and Larry Starcher. At stake is hundreds of millions of dollars juries have given companies in verdicts against Massey Energy that are being appealed to the high court of the state.
Last week the Court sided with Massey Energy 3-2 to overturn a $77 million decision. The deciding vote was cast by Benjamin after both Maynard and Startcher recused themselves from the case. Benjamin appointed the replacements and, as acting chief justice, was able to decide who wrote the majority opinion which is huge when deciding how broad to go in cases of law. Benjamin defeated Warren McGraw in 2004 largely on the back of the And for the Sake of the Kids advertising which stated that McGraw had the deciding vote to let a child molester go free. The case actually swung on whether to revoke probation for Tony Arbaugh after he tested for marijuana and alcohol. Arbaugh had been convicted of abuse of his brother at age 14, but the Court ruled 3-2 for probation and then did not revoke due to Arbaugh being only 18 and having been a victim of abuse starting from the age of 7. Blankenship, CEO of Massey, contributed almost 70% of the amount raised for And for the Sake of the Kids.
Meanwhile Maynard was famously photographed in Monoco with Blankenship as the appeal was about to be heard. ABC news has investigated and of course Blankenship used this opportunity to remind everyone of southern hospitality and gentlemanly manners.
"If you're going to start taking pictures of me, you're liable to get shot,"After roughing up the reporter Blankenship stated:
"The notion that I have taken any action to improperly influence the Supreme Court of West Virginia is baseless and absurd."Maynard is up for re-election this year and is attempting to distance himself from Blankenship. And he is offering proof:
Maynard also contends that he has voted against the Richmond, Va.-based Massey more often than voting in its favor, offering a list of 16 cases.That is solid right?
The Associated Press earlier identified eight published opinions by the Supreme Court in which Maynard sided with Massey, dissenting from the majority's ruling in half of them. Maynard's list is shy four of those cases, including the November decision vacating a $76 million judgment won against the coal producer by Harman Mining.Opps.
Meanwhile the main anti-Blankenship force on the Court is Larry Starcher. Starcher recused himself from the last Massey case because he had made some inflammatory remarks about Blankenship including calling Blankenship a cancer on the courts, stupid, and a clown.
If all this isn't enough get ready for more as more cases hit the Supreme Court.
Massey Energy Co. believes a recent interview of West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Larry Starcher by ABC News strengthens its argument that he should recuse himself from its appeal of a $240 million judgment won against it by Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp.And people in the country believe that the court system is the non-political branch of government.