On November 13, for the third time, the West Virginia Supreme Court threw out the verdict of Harmon Mining against Massey Coal. It was this decision that led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., holding that in extreme circumstances, extensive independent spending in a judicial election campaign could require a state judge to recuse himself from manners related to the spender. The decision stretched recusal standards and the due process clause in new and troublesome directions, and appears to have been based in part on misleading and poorly informed press coverage.
Today, with Justice Brent Benjamin having recused himself from the case as required by the Caperton decision, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled, for yet a third time, against Caperton.
There’s an old line that goes, “Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get you.” That would seem to apply with slight variation to Caperton. Just because Caperton and the campaign finance lobby was paranoid, it doesn’t mean that Massey Coal didn’t have a better case on the law.