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Cert Granted in WV Coal Mine Case

Supreme Court to weigh in on money in the courtroom; grants cert in judicial elections case.

November 15, 2008
For Immediate Release

Susan Lehman: (212) 998–6318
James Sample: (917) 355–9557,

SCOTUS To Weigh in On Money in the Courtroom: Grants Cert in West Virginia Judicial Elections Case

D.C. – Today, the United States Supreme Court decided to grant certiorari in the case of Caperton v. Massey (click here for case page), with major implications on the right to a fair hearing before an impartial judge.

Yesterday, a New York Times editorial said that such a decision would “do a great deal to protect essential fairness.”

West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin refused to recuse himself from a $50 million case against Massey Coal Company, even though the firm’s CEO spent $3 million dollars supporting the judge’s campaign. Despite the apparent conflict of interest, Justice Benjamin cast the deciding vote in a 3–2 decision in favor of Massey.

In August, the Brennan Center, along with the Campaign Legal Center and the Reform Institute filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to grant certiorari in the case. Former solicitor general Ted Olson represents the Petitioners in the case in arguing that Benjamin’s failure to recuse violated the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

“The sole interested source of money, the enormous sums, and the timing of the expenditures in this case constitute an egregious example of a national trend—brazen attempts to purchase influence in pending cases,” said James Sample, counsel for the Brennan Center. “Ted Olson and the petitioners are squarely on the mark—this case is far beneath the floor of the most basic notions of due process.”