SCOTUS to Review Conflict of Interest on WV Supreme Court
The United States Supreme Court is usually inclined to let states police their own courts, but West Virginia is plainly out of control.
Don Blankenship, the chief executive of Massey Energy Co., spent more than $3 million to help elect Justice Brent Benjamin to the West Virginia high court. Benjamin twice was part of 3-2 majorities that threw out a verdict in favor of Harman Mining Co. in its coal contract dispute with Massey.
The case on which Benjamin's vote provided Massey the margin of victory saved Massey $50 million. Not bad for a $3 million investment. [more ...]
It wouldn't be polite to say that Blankenship bought himself a judge, but it is reasonable to ask whether the due process right to an impartial decision-maker is consistent with Benjamin's participation in a decision that directly benefits his financial benefactor. The Supreme Court agreed to review the West Virginia Supreme Court's decision -- specifically, Blankenship's refusal to recuse himself from the case. If the Supreme Court applies any sort of smell test, Benjamin's conduct will stink up the Court.
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