I’ll get back to posting from LegalTech New York, but I want to talk about an order entered last Friday by Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia Chief Justice Brent Benjamin.
As most everyone knows, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments on March 3 in Caperton v. A. T. Massey Coal Co. on the issue of the effect of Massey chairman Don Blankenship’s $3 million in contributions to an organization that ultimately benefited Chief Justice Benjamin’s 2004 campaign for the Court.
Now, confronted with a motion to disqualify him from State ex rel. Central Energy Company v. The Honorable Ronald E. Wilson and Mountain State Carbon, LLC, No. 082333 (Central Energy Company is a Massey subsidiary), Chief Justice Benjamin has temporarily recused himself from all cases involving Massey, pending the Supreme Court’s decision in Caperton.
Here are the recusal order and a 14-page memorandum, in which Chief Justice Benjamin explained that, although he does not believe that his disqualification is warranted “based upon the motion as presented, the facts and records of this case, these parties’ previous actual record before me, and the current law of West Virginia and the United States[,]”
It would be personally and judicially disrespectful to the United States Supreme Court and its Justices for me to proceed in this or any other matter involving Massey Energy Company while the Caperton matter is pending. It would likewise be improper for this Court to delay matters involving Massey Energy Company, particularly matters such as this involving injunctions, while the Caperton matter is pending before that Court.
Justice Robin Davis will serve as acting Chief Justice in matters involving Massey and will appoint a replacement while Caperton is pending before the Supreme Court.
Also, on Monday, AmericanLawyer.com‘s Andrew Longstreth discussed the Caperton appeal and asked Andrew Frey of Mayer Brown, who will argue for Massey before the Supreme Court , about the disparity in the number of amicus briefs filed in support of Caperton and Massey. Frey said that he anticipates “three or five” briefs in support of Massey, including the one to be filed by Alabama Attorney General Troy King on behalf of the National Association of Attorneys General, which I discussed last week.