Although the Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday in Caperton v. A. T. Massey Coal Company, Massey wants the Court to review some additional information, namely, Chief Justice Benjamin’s voting record in appeals involving Massey.
Yesterday Massey filed a motion for leave to file a supplemental brief in order to
present the Court with information pertinent to this matter — specifically, a press release detailing Justice Benjamin’s voting record in matters involving Massey Energy Company and its affiliates — that was issued by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals after briefing was completed. Justice Benjamin’s voting history in Massey cases bears significantly on respondents’ contention that, even if the Due Process Clause requires recusal when there is a “probability of bias,” there was no such probability here.
On Monday, Jennifer Bundy, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia’s public information officer, issued a press release entitled, “Summary of Chief Justice Benjamin’s Dispositive Voting Record Regarding Massey Energy Cases from 01/01/2005 to 12/31/2008,” which was “prepared in response to press inquiries about Chief Justice Benjamin’s voting record in cases involving Massey Energy.”
According to the release, Chief Justice Benjamin voted against the interests of Massey Energy or its subsidiary 81.6% of the time, and in favor of the interests of Massey Energy or its subsidiary 18.4%.
Caperton responded in opposition to Massey’s brief yesterday and took the opportunity to remind the Court of some apparent inconsistencies in Massey’s brief, by noting the Court’s definition of “new matter”:
Such “new matter” might include a statement made by the CEO of a litigant — made after the litigant’s brief expressly denied that the CEO and a particular judge “even knew one another, before or after the election,” much less that the judge “solicited or encouraged [the CEO’s] activities” — acknowledging that the CEO and the judge had met privately before the election and discussed, specifically, “raising money.” Compare, e.g., Resp. Br. 55–56, with Adam Liptak, Justices Hear Arguments on Money-Court Nexus, New York Times, March 4, 2009, at A18. That would be new information “that was not available in time to be included in a brief,” S. Ct. R. 25.5, and it would tend to reinforce petitioners’ argument that the CEO had set out to pick a judge for his own case and that any reasonable observer would conclude that a judge selected under those circumstances quite probably would be biased in favor of the CEO who spent so much to elect him.
Caperton’s brief also asserts that in the only Massey cases where Chief Justice Benjamin’s vote was outcome-determinative, i.e., he voted with the majority in a 3-2 vote, he voted for Massey.
Here are Andrew Clevenger’s article in Tuesday’s Charleston Gazette discussing the release and his article in today’s edition discussing Massey’s brief.