Editorial regarding the Massey case urges judicial election reform
In West Virginia, Massey Energy's chief executive contributed 3 million dollars to the reelection a Justice of the Supreme Court--who promptly signed on to a 4-3 decision overturning a 50 million dollar verdict against Massey. When photos surfaced showing the Chief Justice of the Court vacationing with Massey's chief executive in Monte Carlo, so many people were outraged that the Court felt compelled to revisit the case. The Chief Justice recused himself and a Justice who had criticized Massey's misconduct was also forced to recuse. The Justice who received the 3 million dollar contribution didn't recuse himself, however, and Massey's verdict was overturned by a 3-2 vote.
State Courts are under seige with special interest money--funneled primarily from insurance companies and the Chamber of Commerce (which recently pledged tens of millions of dollars to the re-election of Michigan Supreme Court Justice Clifford Taylor--a radical insurance-oriented activist who was brought to power by staunch partisan then-Governor Engler [Taylor's wife was Engler's Chief of Staff]). Maybe the Massey verdict was wrong or off-base: the rest of us don't know enough about the case to say. We do know enough to tell when the appearance of impropriety threatens the integrity and credibility of the judiciary.