Sustained Outrage

Secret courts I

Later this month, national media groups will celebrate “Sunshine Week,” to call attention to the need for more openness in our government. Did somebody in West Virginia’s court system declare last week “secrecy week” and just not tell us?


First, there was Monongalia County Circuit Judge Susan Tucker, who sealed the lawsuit filed against West Virginia University and various university officials by former provost Gerald Lang. Lang, of course, resigned from his administrative post last year over his involvement in the decision to award Gov. Joe Manchin’s daughter a master’s degree. Tucker later unsealed the lawsuit, but her reasons for initially sealing it remain unclear.

halloran.jpgThen, there’s the curious case of Kanawha County Magistrate Tim Halloran, who closed his courtroom to the media and the public during preliminary hearing for a Charleston police officer charged with soliciting sex with a minor. When called seeking some explanation for his closing the proceeding, Halloran said:

If you’re calling about Friday night, I run a courtroom, not a newsroom.

(If that weren’t enough, Halloran’s response after that has been to demand that news reporters who park near the courthouse be ticketed.)

So perhaps a quick review is needed of what West Virginia’s law requires regarding open courts…

First, there’s Article III, Section 17 of the West Virginia Constitution:

The courts of this state shall be open, and every person, for an injury done to him, in his person, property or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law; and justice shall be administered without sale, denial or delay.

Continue reading…


As tomorrow’s U.S. Supreme Court oral argument on the Brent Benjamin-Don Blankenship connection  approaches, more media stories are coming out about the high-profile case over whether Benjamin should have stepped down from considering a big-money appeal involving Blankenship’s Massey Energy Co.

frey.jpgolson.jpgThe Washington Post had a story today,  points out that the case will be argued by “two of the court’s most prolific and persuasive practitioners, former solicitor general Theodore B. Olson and Andrew L. Frey.”

Continue reading…

Battling for Bayer?

bayer.jpgBayer CropScience hasn’t said yet if it will challenge $143,000 in fines issued by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 13 serious and 2 repeat violations related to the August 2008 explosion and fire that killed two Institute plant workers.

But a vigorous court fight seems likely, given who Bayer has hired as its lawyer in the matter.

gombar.jpgRobert C. Gombar is well known for his efforts to help companies that butt heads with OSHA over allegations that they weren’t complying with workplace health and safety rules. Gombar is head of the OSHA, MSHA & Catastrophe Response Group at the Washington, D.C., offices of the law firm of McDermott, Will & Emery. The firm’s Web site says Gombar has been “primary outside counsel to companies in over 30 industrial disaster situations.”

Gombar is listed on the “revolving door” section of the Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets Web site, because he’s been back-an-forth between working for OSHA and representing companies that OSHA inspects.

Continue reading…