Civil Procedure Keyed to Yeazell
Caperton v. A.T.Massey Coal Co., Inc
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Hugh Caperton (P) brought a case against A.T.Massey Coal Co., Inc.(Massey) (D) on the grounds that Massey (D) had illegally cancelled a contract. The cancellation bankrupted Caperton. The West Virginia court jury brought a verdict of guilty against Massey (D) and its affiliates, finding them punishable on charges of fraud in representation, concealment and intentional interference with the existing obligations of the company’s contract. The jury awarded compensation and damages against the company to the sum of $50 million. Before the next step of appealing the verdict was taken, judicial elections (2004) in West Virginia came up. One of the candidates was Brent Benjamin, and his biggest backer was Massey’s (D) chairman, CEO and president, Don Blankenship. He gave $1,000 to Benjamin’s campaign committee, which was the maximum allowed under the law, donated approximately $ 2.5 million to a political party that supported Benjamin and spent another $ 500,000 on other costs in the campaign. The total expenditure of Blankenship on Benjamin’s election surpassed the sum total contributed by everyone else, and was three times as much as Benjamin’s own committee spent on their candidate. Benjamin won the election. Caperton (P) moved court to disqualify the new judge citing the Due Process Clause which guarantees a fair trial to all citizens, and the West Virginia Code of Judicial Conduct, giving as grounds the conflict of interest caused by Blankenship’s massive involvement in the election campaign. Justice Benjamin refused to grant the motion. Massey (D) now filed its appeal petition, and the decision was reversed. Justice Benjamin joined the majority opinion. Caperton (P) requested a rehearing, and both parties moved court to obtain disqualification of three out of the five judges who heard the appeal. Judge Benjamin repeated his denial of Caperton’s (P) motion to have him recused. After the rehearing motion was granted, Caperton (P) moved a third time to have the judge disqualified from the hearing. It was again refused, and the rehearing ended in a divided court reversing the jury verdict again.
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