Starcher

MONTGOMERY -- West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Larry Starcher said he would release any e-mails that have been requested of him, but he doesn't have any to release.

"I don't vacation with Don Blankenship or e-mail to him," Starcher said after giving a speech in honor of Constitution Day at West Virginia University Institute of Technology.

Massey Energy filed a suit in July regarding a Freedom of Information Act requesting to see Starcher's e-mails.

The company claimed Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury was wrong in not disclosing e-mails to or from Starcher, his staff, the court's administrative staff and any third parties that refer to Massey or CEO Don Blankenship.

Starcher claims he has volunteered to release e-mails, but the company has not pursued the matter since the July suit.

He also claims there are no e-mails to be released.

"I don't care (if they want to see the e-mails)," he said. "I don't have any e-mails."

Massey sent a letter to Canterberry on July 9 requesting access to the communication to or from Starcher, but was denied July 15 in a letter, according to the suit.

"It would (not) be appropriate to comply with your request for the request of the e-mails of Justice Larry Starcher," the letter said.

The West Virginia Freedom of Information Act states "Every person has a right to inspect or copy any public record of a public body in this State ..."

"Public body" includes elected state officials, such as Starcher, the suit says.

Canterbury invoked a January memorandum from counsel J. Kirk Brandfass, which stated, "a position can be taken that the provisions of the West Virginia FOIA are not applicable to the Justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court."

But Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom has ordered the Associated Press's FOIA request be honored in five of 13 e-mails sent between Chief Justice Spike Maynard and Blankenship.

Starcher said he agrees with the ruling.

"I think it's fine," he said. "I think they should release all of them."

Canterbury said he disagreed with Bloom's ruling.

"While it is abundantly clear what is at the heart of this particular request, any demand for the disclosure of communications or information of West Virginia Supreme court Justices has effects well beyond any singular request," he said. "The disclosure of the requested information sets a bad precedent, is likely unconstitutional, and has long-range ramifications."

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