Let’s review: Spike Maynard and Massey

October 25, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.

It comes as little surprise that the West Virginia Coal Association endorsed Republican Spike Maynard’s bid for Congress, or as the AP’s Larry Messina documented, that contributors with ties to Massey Energy provided half of the campaign cash Maynard raised so far this month.

But as time passes, events overtake us, and sometimes we have little space in our brains or our news coverage for the details of things. Take exactly what happened with Maynard and the big case Massey Energy had on appeal to the Supreme court. The AP story describes the situation this way:

Massey Chief Executive Don Blankenship has been a major supporter of Maynard’s campaign. Their longtime friendship became an issue during Maynard’s unsuccessful re-election campaign for state Supreme Court in 2008. Photos surfaced showing the two sharing drinks and socializing in Monaco, at a time when Massey had appeals before Maynard’s court.

Heck, the Daily Mail managed to endorse Maynard without even mentioning the whole thing, let alone trying to explain it away.

But it’s worth taking a look at the timeline and remembering how the events transpired…

— Back on Aug. 1, 2002, a Boone County jury returned a more than $50 million verdict against Massey Energy, finding that the company had forced Harman Mining out of business and into bankruptcy by illegally taking away its major long-term coal contract.

— On Oct. 24, 2006, after a long delay in obtaining a trial transcript Massey appealed to the state Supreme Court. The case was argued on Oct. 10, 2007, and an opinion issued on Nov. 21, 2007 — finding in favor of Massey and overturning the jury verdict.

— On Jan. 7, 2008, Harman Mining owner Hugh Caperton’s lawyer, Bruce Stanley, filed this Motion for Disqualification aimed at then-Justice Maynard. The motion asked Maynard to either disclose the nature of any  meetings or discussions with Don Blankenship or to disqualify himself from participating in a motion for rehearing. The m0tion explained:

… Caperton has been advised that Justice Maynard was observed dining with Massey Energy Company and A.T. Massey Chief Executive Don L. Blankenship on or about Nov. 8, 2007, in Logan, West Virginia, less than three weeks before this Court issued its majority opinion, in which Justice Maynard joined, overturning the judgment against A.T. Massey Company Inc. and the other Appellants.

While Caperton has been unable to independently verify such a dinner meeting, surely Justice Maynard can do so, and it is incumbent upon him, in order for the public to maintain its confidence in the appearance of the impartiality of this state’s highest legal tribunal, of which Justice Maynard will be serving as Chief Justice, to offer the full and complete details of the nature of his personal relationship with Mr. Blankenship, as well as the nature of the discussions had by them at his or any other meeting during the pendency of this matter before the Court.

— Then, nothing happened … until a week later, when Hugh Caperton’s lawyer filed this Amended Motion for Disqualification directed at Maynard. This time, the motion said:

… Mr. Caperton has become aware of the existence of thirty-four (34) photographs which depict chief Justice Maynard and Mr. Blankenship vacationing together in the Kingdom of Monaco during the time period of July 3-5, 2006. Copies of twenty-four (24) of these photographs are attached hereto as Exhibit “A.”

Ten (10) of the photographs also depict, in addition to Chief Justice Maynard and/or Mr. Blankenship, two females apparently traveling with them as companions.

By the time of this trip to the Kingdom of Monaco, this Honorable Court had already given considerable attention to this case, having ruled upon numerous petitions and motions, and was in the process of finalizing the record for purposes of entertaining Massey’s Petition for Appeal … However, at no time during the pendency of any of these lengthy proceedings has Chief Justice Maynard ever made a voluntary disclosure to Mr. Caperton regarding the depth, extent or nature of his personal relationship with Mr. Blankenship.

It wasn’t until four days after this Amendment Motion was filed that Maynard issued this three-paragraph memo announcing that he would recuse himself from any further participation in the case, saying:

The issue, because of the controversy surrounding this case, is no longer an issue of whether I can be fair and impartial. Rather, it is now has become an issue of public perception and public confidence in the courts. Above all else, I am very concerned about how the public views this court.

Without question, the Judicial Branch of state government should always be held in the highest public confidence and trust. The mere appearance of impropriety, regardless of whether it is supported by fact, can compromise the public confidence in the courts. For that reason — and that reason alone — I will recuse myself from this case.

3 Responses to “Let’s review: Spike Maynard and Massey”

  1. Micajah88 says:

    How transparent must a situation be before voters notice? The ticket should read Massey-Maynard…

  2. Amanda says:

    I am curious as to the identities of the “two females apparently traveling with them as companions.” on the trip to the Kingdom of Monaco. Were the two identified?

  3. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Amanda,

    Here’s a previous Gazette story that names one of the women:

    E-MAILS NOT RELEASED BEFORE PRIMARY BLOOM NOT SURE HE CAN TELL SUPREME COURT WHAT TO DO

    Publication: THE CHARLESTON GAZETTE
    Published: Tuesday, May 13, 2008
    Page: 1C
    Byline: ANDREW CLEVENGER

    aclevenger@wvgazette.com

    When voters head to the polls today to vote for state Supreme Court justice, they won’t have the benefit of knowing whether Chief Justice Elliott “Spike” Maynard had improper discussions via e-mail with Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

    Last month, The Associated Press sued state Supreme Court administrative director Steve Canterbury after he refused to turn over records of e-mails that may have been exchanged by Maynard and Blankenship, which the AP requested under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

    But before lawyers for both sides could argue their cases at a hearing Monday, Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom said he wanted to be sure he has the authority to tell the higher court what to do.

    “Is there jurisdiction for an inferior court to tell the Supreme Court how to conduct their business?” Bloom asked.

    He asked both sides to submit written briefs on the issue, and scheduled another hearing for June 24.

    West Virginia University law professor Pat McGinley, arguing on behalf of the AP, wanted to press ahead on Monday, citing the public’s interest in learning more about the records before voting.

    “An expedited hearing today would help determine if the [state Supreme] court has even looked for the [requested] documents over the last four months. That’s something the public has a right to know,” he said.

    Bloom declined to proceed, and reminded McGinley that it was the AP’s decision to file its lawsuit so close to the primary that created the deadline pressure.

    McGinley noted that the AP followed up on its original FOIA submission in January with another on Feb. 29 that tried to limit its request to possible ex parte communications between Maynard and his staff and Blankenship and his representatives.

    The AP’s February request also included the e-mails of Brenda Magann, a paralegal with the court’s Magistrate Court Services division who told ABC News last month that she was on the now-infamous vacation in Europe with Maynard in 2006.

    Part of the reason the AP did not immediately file its lawsuit was that it was busy sorting through more than 900 pages of documents related to Magann’s e-mails turned over by Supreme Court administrators in mid-March, McGinley said.

    Maynard is one of four Democratic candidates seeking to fill one of two seats on the court up for grabs in November’s general election. One Republican is also running for the court.

    Maynard’s relationship with Blankenship came under national scrutiny after photos surfaced in January showing the two men together on the French Riviera in July 2006.

    When the photos were taken, several cases involving Massey and its subsidiaries were pending in front of the state Supreme Court. Maynard later voted with the 3-2 majority to overturn a multimillion-dollar verdict against Massey in a lawsuit brought by Harman Mining Corp.

    Maynard, who has acknowledged a decades-long friendship with Blankenship, has denied any wrongdoing. He later recused himself from the Harman case, and said he would withdraw from all others involving Massey.

    After Monday’s hearing, Canterbury declined to discuss whether his office had assembled records of Maynard’s e-mails pertaining to the AP’s FOIA requests.

    “We have to wait for the court proceedings to get all of that out,” he said.

    McGinley noted that the information requested by the AP could have cleared Maynard of any suggestion of impropriety.

    “The goal of the AP was to disclose to the public important information that is relevant to the election tomorrow,” he said. “[Bloom’s] ruling will not allow that to happen. There will continue to be a cloud over the [state Supreme] court that disclosure of the public records involved might lift.”

    To contact staff writer Andrew Clevenger, use e-mail or call 348-1723.

Leave a Reply