July 01, 2013

A Jurist and a Lawyer Consider Judicial Recusal After Caperton

By Judge N. Randy Smith and Robert S. Peck

Judicial disqualification remains an issue of widespread interest, particularly in the aftermath of the 2009 Supreme Court decision in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co.1 In Caperton, Caperton sued Massey and won a $50 million jury verdict in compensatory and punitive damages. After the verdict, and while the appeal was pending, Massey’s CEO spent $3 million to help an attorney-candidate, Brent Benjamin, unseat an incumbent justice on the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia. After the election, but before the appeal was heard, citing the Due Process Clause, Caperton moved to disqualify now-Justice Benjamin. Justice Benjamin denied the motion because no evidence had been presented that he would be anything but fair and impartial. A sharply split panel of the court, including Justice Benjamin in the majority, then reversed the $50 million award against Massey.

Premium Content For:
  • Lawyers Conference
  • National Conference of Specialized Court Judges
  • National Conference of State Trial Judges
  • National Conference of the Administrative Law Judiciary
  • National Conference of Federal Trial Judges
  • Appellate Judges Conference
Join - Now