There are a few more items I want to mention today about the Supreme Court’s decision in Caperton v. A. T. Massey Coal Company. The first is a personal statement released by Don L. Blankenship, the chairman of Massey Energy Co., and the person whose 2004 campaign contributions on behalf of Brent Benjamin created the conflict that culminated in the Court’s decision on Monday.
Blankenship’s statement is not on Massey’s website and apparently does not represent Massey’s official reaction to the decision. Massey’s statement released on Monday quotes only Shane Harvey, Massey’s general counsel and vice-president, and is far more measured than Blankenship’s.
Blankenship’s statement is his attempt to justify his substantial financial support on behalf of Justice Benjamin, even though the highest court in the country just held that his support objectively required Justice Benjamin to recuse himself from Caperton, and that Justice Benjamin’s failure to due so denied Hugh Caperton and his companies due process under the United States Constitution. I guess if I were in Blankenship’s position, I’d issue a statement that was as unapologetic and arrogant as the motive behind the contributions that were at the heart of the situation.
Of more interest and, I think, far more value is this interview on The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times with Thomas R. Phillips, retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, and an author of an amicus brief in Caperton on behalf of the conference of chief justices in support of neither party.
I encourage you to read his entire interview, which is brief, but this is his analysis of the decision:
Caperton established a principle that is really important: There are constitutional concerns with a judge sitting in judgment of a case where a party is a significant donor. At some point, the support becomes so substantial and so overwhelming that due process requires the judge to step aside, even if neither the donor not [sic] the judge did anything illegal or even unethical.
He identifies six criteria in Caperton that must be satisfied in order to establish a violation of a party’s due process and contends that its holding is so narrow that, “I’m not sure Caperton will ever be direct precedent for another recusal.”
Finally, here’s a post from Daily Kos that’s getting quite a bit of traction around the Internet. Its title is a reference to John Grisham’s novel, The Appeal, which, by sheer coincidence, I finished reading about 2 a.m. Monday morning.
As you may be aware, when the book came out last year, Grisham stated that the story wasn’t far-fetched and had already happened in West Virginia, which, allowing for some poetic license in the novel, is accurate.