Coal Tattoo

Yesterday, Kanawha Circuit Judge James C. Stucky issued what could be the beginning of a major development in the cases against former members of Massey Energy’s board of directors.

Judge Stucky ruled that stockholder groups who sued the board members have made a “prima facie” case that the defendant board members have violated a June 2008 legal settlement in which they pledged to improve their oversight of Massey’s safety performance.

In a two-page order, Judge Stucky cited a variety of things that it appeared to him the board members had failed to do:

— Failing to implement the required reporting, monitoring, management and reporting system;

— Violating the public reporting requirements;

— Failing to created and oversee a system for reporting safety compliance issues and to adopt whistleblower protections;

— Failing to fulfill the training-related review, recommendation and reporting requirements; and

— Failing to make a good faith effort to reform Massey Energy’s corporate governance as intended by and required under the Order and Stipulation.

We’ve covered some of these issues before, based on documents unsealed by Kanawha Circuit Judge Charles King  in a related case, after the Gazette and NPR went to court to obtain those records.

But the court filings that prompted Judge Stucky’s new order — a legal petition and a variety of attachments used as evidence — apparently remain under seal down the street at the Kanawha County Courthouse.

The judge said nothing about that in his order, despite my repeated requests to him that the records be made public. Judge Stucky did set a scheduling conference for July 5 to discuss how the overall case would proceed from here.

Judge Stucky indicated he would hold a hearing starting on Oct. 24 to give the defendants an opportunity to explain why they should not be held in contempt.

Here’s a copy of the judge’s order: