Should There Be Compulsory Disqualification?
West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Larry V. Starcher has publicly criticized a colleague for his failure to disqualify himself from a case (Caperton v. Massey Coal Co.) in which the latter had an apparent conflict of interest.
The subject justice is West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Brent D. Benjamin, whose election to the bench benefited from a $3.5 million campaign contribution from a party (Massey Energy) who came before Benjamin as a defendant in a case in which he subsequently voted to reverse a $50 million judgment against it.
Former Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, an attorney for the plaintiff, Hugh M. Caperton, presents his opinion of when a judge should disqualify him-or-herself from a case.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Caperton
case on March 3, 2009 [see PDF
]. On June 8, 2009, in a surprising 5-to-4
decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Caperton and against Massey [see PDF
], leading some observers to predict a flood of new appeals from litigants claiming a biased judge.
Video clips of the Starcher interview were from http://www.abcnews.go.com/video/playerindex?id=4612112, accessed 03/08/09. Audio clips of the Olson interview were from http://www.wvpubcast.org/newsarticle.aspx?id=4448, accessed 03/05/09. Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.