Hugh Caperton, whose verdict against A.T. Massey Coal Company, Inc. for $50 million was reversed by the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia by a vote of 3-2, yesterday filed an amended motion to disqualify Chief Justice Elliott E. “Spike” Maynard from participating in the plaintiffs’ petitions for reconsideration of the Court’s decision and seeking the withdrawal of his vote in Massey’s favor.

    The basis for the amended motion is that Caperton “has become aware of the existence of thirty-four (34) photographs which depict Chief Justice Maynard and Mr. Blankenship vacationing together in the Kingdom of Monaco during the time period of July 3-5, 2006.  Copies of twenty-four of these photographs are attached hereto as Exhibit A.”  The motion also states that, “[t]en (10) of the photographs also depict, in addition to Chief Justice Maynard and/or Mr. Blankenship, two females apparently traveling with them as companions.”  Those photographs have been filed under seal.   

    The motion and the underlying relationship between Chief Justice Maynard and Blankenship are the subject of a story today in The New York Times by Adam Liptak, entitled “Motion Ties W. Virginia Justice to Coal Executive.”   For more local coverage, here are stories by Paul J. Nyden in today’s Charleston Gazette and by Associated Press reporter Lawrence Messina

    Yesterday I wrote about the petitions for reconsideration filed by Caperton and his companies, as well as Caperton’s motion to disqualify Chief Justice Maynard, which was filed earlier this month, which alleged that less than two weeks before the Court issued its decision in Caperton’s appeal, Chief Justice Maynard and Blankenship had been seen having dinner together.

    The standard for disqualification of a Supreme Court justice is governed by Rule 29 of the West Virginia Rules of Appellate Procedure, which provides that, “[a] justice shall disqualify himself or herself, upon proper motion or sua sponte, in accordance with the provisions of Canon 3(E)(1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct or, when sua sponte, for any other reason the justice deems appropriate.”  Canon 3(E)(1) provides that, “[a] judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned ….” 

    Caperton’s amended motion alleges that:

It is beyond the realm of human comprehension that any judge could claim any semblance of impartiality when, before casting the deciding vote in a $76 million case, he accompanies the CEO of the litigant on the hook for that judgment on a luxurious trip to the French Riviera.  As if that were not enough, he then consciously chooses not to disclose the very fact of the trip.  Apparently unsatisfied, he then casts the deciding vote in support of a “majority” opinion which was not only expressly intended to deprive Mr. Caperton, by reason of a dismissal “with prejudice” of any further opportunity to obtain justice, but also to bestow a $76 million windfall upon Massey and good friend Don Blankenship.

    Rule 29 provides that the justice whose disqualification is sought “shall promptly notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court of his or her decision on the motion for disqualification and the Clerk of the Supreme Court shall promptly notify the other justices and the parties of such decision.”  As soon as Chief Justice Maynard makes his decision, which most likely will be in the form of an order, I’ll post it here.