As an update to my earlier post about Fola Coal Company, LLC’s motion to disqualify Judge Robert Chambers based on his past membership in the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Judge Chambers entered an order on Monday, in which he denied Fola’s motion.
He found that Sierra Club v. Simkins Indus., Inc., 847 F.2d 1109 (4th Cir. 1988), was the controlling authority and noted its statement that "litigants are entitled to a judge free of any personal bias, but not to a judge without any personal history before appointment to the bench."
Fola had attempted to distinguish Sierra Club by arguing that there was no mention in that case of the judge’s financial support of the organization and that the instant case was just starting. But Judge Chambers pointed out that his own financial support of WVHC was only minimal — probably similar to the judge’s in Sierra Club — and that the stage of the proceedings did not affect the applicability of Sierra Club to the situation.
Ken Ward, Jr. wrote about Judge Chambers’ decision in this morning’s Charleston Gazette.