A few weeks ago, photographs surfaced that showed Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia Chief Justice Elliott E. “Spike” Maynard and Massey Energy Company Don L. Blankenship vacationing together in Monaco and, to put it mildly, created a controversy about the Supreme Court’s decision in Caperton v. A. T. Massey Coal Company, Inc., in which Chief Justice Maynard was in the majority. On the plaintiffs’ motion, the Supreme Court agreed to reconsider its decision, and the parties argued the case again last week. Chief Justice Maynard and Justice Larry Starcher recused themselves from the Court’s reconsideration of the appeal.
Apparently, the photographs have had a more profound effect, as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States’ Attorney’s office for the Southern District of West Virginia are investigating the relationship between the Chief Justice and Blankenship. The Wall Street Journal reported on the investigation last Thursday, as part of a story on the Caperton rehearing. On Friday, in The Charleston Gazette, Paul J. Nyden reported that Court employees and at least one justice had been interviewed. According to Nyden’s article, Chief Justice Maynard has questioned the Journal’s story and discounted the existence of the investigation, although he said he would welcome an independent investigation so that he could show that he received nothing from Blankenship.