Supreme Court Justice Margaret Workman today issued her dissent to the court’s decision last week to block release of e-mails sent by former Justice Spike Maynard to Massey Energy President Don Blankenship.
Workman’s main point is spelled out pretty clear this way:
In the case at hand, a Justice sitting on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals communicated by e-mail on a somewhat regular basis with a friend who was the Chairman and CEO of a party litigant with a case pending before the Court. With one exception, the literal content of those e-mails did not contain information relating to the conduct of public business.
The fact that those e-mails had been sent, however, did contain relevant information.
First and foremost, it discloses the existence of a personal relationship between a sitting Justice and a CEO of a party litigant. In addition, when the AP made its first FOIA request, a motion filed by the Plaintiffs in Caperton seeking Justice Maynard’s recusal from that case was pending, the basis of which was his personal relationship with Mr. Blankenship.
The fact that the e-mails were sent, albeit on issues unrelated to matters pending before this court, is clearly relevant to the relationship between Justice Maynard and Mr. Blankenship.
Because that relationship was the basis of a motion for recusal, the relationship was itself related to Justice Maynard’s conduct of the public’s business.
More generally, Workman explains:
Put simply, when a judge or a justice communicates, via a record that is prepared, owned and retained by a public body, with a party litigant (or someone closely connected therewith) while that party’s case is pending before that judge, such communication necessarily contains information that relates to that judge or justice’s conduct of the public business to the extent that it reveals the nature of the relationship between the two.