Legal Ethics

Motion Questions W. Va. Chief Justice’s Monte Carlo Meals With Coal CEO

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A motion filed Monday seeks the disqualification of the chief justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court in a case against a coal company based on allegations he vacationed with the CEO in Monte Carlo.

The motion seeking the disqualification of Justice Elliott “Spike” Maynard included photographs taken in Monte Carlo of the justice posing with the CEO, Don Blankenship, reports the New York Times, which posted two of the photos. Maynard voted with the majority in a 3-2 ruling in favor of the company, Massey Energy, in 2007, about a year after the vacation.

The suit against Massey Energy was filed by mining companies who claim they were driven out of business because of a Massey scheme to break them. The supreme court decision overturned a $76 million verdict against the company, West Virginia Public Broadcasting reports.

The motion (PDF posted by West Virginia Public Broadcasting) asks Maynard to disclose the nature of his relationship with Blankenship and the content of their mealtime discussions. Some of the photos filed with the motion are under seal to protect the identity of two female companions with Maynard and Blankenship, the West Virginia Record reports.

A Massey Energy spokesman told the New York Times that the two men were in Monte Carlo at the same time, but they were not vacationing together. D.C. Offutt Jr., a lawyer for Massey, said the only issue was whether Maynard could be impartial. “That’s his decision to make,” Offutt told the Times.

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