Archive for April, 2008

The Selling of the judiciary

April 15, 2008

Great editorial in today’s NY Times which uses West Virginia as the Poster Child for special interests in courtrooms.

In West Virginia, meanwhile, the State Supreme Court’s handling of a case involving a large coal company, Massey Energy, took on a decidedly farcical flavor. For the second time, the appellate court threw out a $50 million verdict against Massey.

The court decided to rehear the case after photographs publicly surfaced of its chief justice, Elliott Maynard, vacationing in Monte Carlo with Massey’s chief executive, Don Blankenship, in 2006, while the matter was pending in the Supreme Court. The chief justice disqualified himself from the rehearing. So did another justice, Larry Starcher, because he had publicly criticized Blankenship and his company. The 3-to-2 outcome in favor of Massey was unchanged from the first round, which might not have been noteworthy except that the deciding vote was cast once again by Justice Brent Benjamin, who declined to recuse himself despite owing his election to the court to more than $3 million spent by Mr. Blankenship.

It’s great to see that more are calling for reform in judicial elections, it’s just sad that West Virginia has to be such a shining example of the need.

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Paying bonuses to show up for work

April 11, 2008

I’m kicking myself for agreeing with Pete Thaw, but the report from Kanawha County Schools about how much additional money teachers are making this year just for showing up for work is amazing. But it gets worse.

I thought it was bad enough to give teachers extra pay not to take days off, but it turns out that the policy applies also to administrators and office workers. As Thaw said

“You’re going to tell me a child’s education is disrupted when someone in accounting is gone? That’s crazy,” he said. “Children don’t care who’s working here all day or not working here all day.”

Judge without a cause

April 9, 2008

In today’s Gazette, Spike Maynard flounders around justifying his charade with Don Blankenship.

But the real issue is the closing statement in the article:

“my record of fighting to keep the economy strong, keep insurance rates low, keep doctors in the state, and keep our families and communities safe.”

That’s not his job. His job is to rule on cases objectively and without promoting any causes. He’s supposed to uphold the State Constitution, not his personal beliefs.

And that’s the problem with the WV Supreme Court of Appeals. Benjamin was elected thanks to Blankenship’s promoting him as a solution to a “cause.” People dislike McGraw because he has a “cause.” When are we gonna get some judges on the court?

The truth is on the tape, Dave

April 8, 2008

Don Blankenship manages to make West Virginia look stupid on national TV, but our own Daily Mail writers make me really cringe.

Dave Peyton implies that no matter what the truth is about the scuffle between Blankenship and an ABC News reporter, ABC will fix it so that Blankenship looks bad. Fortunately, anybody who watches the video can see what a dick Don was. The reporter simply walked up with the camera on, and Don reached out and grabbed the lens and, apparently, the reporter as well. You can see and hear it all right there.

Maybe you should’ve watched the video first, Dave. Or maybe you’re just an apologist for Don Blankenship.

A meeting to attend?

April 8, 2008

I see the Capitol Building Commission is meeting Wednesday at the Cultural Center. The agenda includes the Gov’s Conference Room renovation, “the Capitol Campus master plan; and the addition of security gates.” Folks have been wondering about those gates that appeared on the campus a few months ago (you know, the ones that if you close them you could drive around). Maybe they’ll explain what’s going on at the meeting.

The meeting is open to the public.