Massey, Harman saga might be nearing end

CHARLESTON – Now that a final transcript of a 2002 trial exists, a Boone County case between Massey Energy and Harman Development Corp. might be near an end.

On Aug. 25, Boone Circuit Judge Jay Hoke certified the final transcript of the trial between plaintiffs Hugh Caperton and Harman Development and defendant Massey.

Caperton and Harman filed a lawsuit in 1998 alleging Massey of wrongly taking control of a contract to supply coal to LTV Steel a year earlier. A Boone County jury awarded a $50 million verdict to Caperton and Harman in 2002. Massey has appealed that ruling.

In June, Massey filed a lawsuit against Boone Circuit Court reporter Jennifer Meadows, claiming she "intentionally misrepresented her ability to produce a transcript" for the 2002 trial. Massey also claims Meadows' actions have caused the company "substantial financial damages."

The state Supreme Court then ordered the Boone Circuit Court to fill in missing and unintelligible parts of the transcript. Hoke's ruling last week says a final, complete transcript now exists and serves as sufficient evidence for appeal purposes in the case. Massey has 60 days from Hoke's Aug. 25 ruling to file an appeal before the case heads back to the Supreme Court.

In July, Massey filed a motion to have Hoke disqualified from the case brought against the energy company by Hugh Caperton, Harman Development Corp., Harman Mining Corp. and Sovereign Coal Sales Inc. That case, of course, already has resulted in the federal lawsuit.

And earlier this month, Massey Energy sued the state Supreme Court because it doesn't think it can be treated fairly by the Court because of past comments made by Justice Larry Starcher.

Massey contends Starcher "has shown a strong personal bias against plaintiff Massey Energy, and plaintiff Massey Energy's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Don L. Blankenship."

Massey and subsidiary Marfork Coal Company are listed as plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Charleston. The companies seek declaratory and injunctive relief on the grounds that part of the West Virginia Rules of Appellate Procedure violates their Fourteenth Amendment right to a fair trial. The rule in question - Rule 29 - allows a single justice of the state Supreme Court who is the subject of a disqualification motion to determine whether he should disqualify himself.

"Because plaintiffs are likely to appear before the West Virginia Supreme Court in the future, their disqualification motions will be subject to Rule 29," that complaint states.

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