Massey appealing fine to W.Va. SC

John O'Brien Jan. 14, 2009, 6:00pm


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Benjamin may soon have to decide if he plans to recuse himself from another case involving his largest campaign supporter.

That's because a subsidiary of Massey Energy is appealing a Kanawha County Circuit Court decision that increased the fine for a safety violation by $90,000, according to a report by The Associated Press.

The AP report states that the state Coal Mine Safety Board of Appeals cut the original fine from $100,000 to $10,000, but Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom reinstated the full amount. Marfork Coal was fined for not reporting a mine flood to safety officials within 15 minutes.

Benjamin's non-recusal from a $50 million case involving Massey has been the subject of much debate. Massey CEO Don Blankenship spent more than $3 million in the 2004 election in support of Benjamin and against incumbent justice Warren McGraw.

Harman Mining won its case against Massey over a broken coal supply contract, but twice Benjamin was in the majority of a 3-2 decision overturning it.

Harman has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, alleging Benjamin should have recused himself from the case because of Blankenship's support. It is scheduled to be heard March 9.

Benjamin voted against hearing Massey's appeal of a $220 million verdict against it last year.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

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