The Charleston Daily Mail is reporting breaking news: that email records from West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Spike Maynard to Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship have been released under court order. The order was the result of a FOIA request and litigation by the Associated Press.
One of the emails contained a link to then-opposition candidate Menis Ketchum’s law firm website, criticizing the types of cases that he accepts. You can see the website for yourself here. Yes, Mr. Ketchum is a personal injury attorney. I’m not sure that is news to anybody. But what’s wrong with representing actual living breathing people who have real problems that were caused by others – i.e., complacent coal companies, reckless drivers, and so on and so forth. Most big-firm lawyers, and indeed the one’s who consider themselves the “elite,” make their living representing legal fictions – business or government entities who cannot feel hurt, pain, sadness, or happiness. These clients, and therefore their lawyers, are concerned only with money. Now there is nothing wrong with money, I believe in the capitalistic system. But I also believe that although personal injury lawyers get a bad name – especially in West Virginia – they are fighting for a real person and their real problems, and therefore advocate for real justice rather than the bottom line.
Another email discussed politics and the election. I guess I just don’t agree with judicial elections in the first place. This is an area of our public system of government that should be off-limits from the corruption of politics. Imagine if our federal judges were elected. It’s bad enough just going through presidential appointments and the senate confirmation process. Imagine if we had national campaign commercials for Supreme Court candidates… That is essentially what we have in West Virginia. It’s not the candidates’ fault. I would run for the West Virginia Supreme Court if I had a chance to win. But the system is wrong.
You know, most out-of-staters, and many West Virginians, have no idea that there is no intermediate court of appeals in West Virginia. We are only one of 8 (I believe) states without an intermediate court of appeals. You can probably guess which those other states are. They are the usual suspects that almost always are hovering near West Virginia on all the rankings lists.
This means that in West Virginia you do not have a right to an appeal. Imagine that. In many cases in West Virginia, including criminal cases, your only hope for appeal is likely to the U.S. Supreme Court. And that is like no appeal at all, because you have about a zero percent chance of getting considered.
– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney.