CHARLESTON – A statewide legal reform group says it has questions it believe West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Robin Jean Davis should answer in the wake of an ABC News report earlier this week.
The ABC report that aired Tuesday on ABC World News Tonight and Nightline was titled “Lear Jet Justice in West Virginia? A ‘Circus Masquerading as a Court.’” It revealed Davis' husband – Charleston attorney Scott Segal – sold a Learjet to attorney Michael Fuller for just over $1 million and that Fuller helped raise thousands of dollars for Davis’ 2012 re-election campaign.
The report, by the network’s chief investigative correspondent, Brian Ross, reveals that Fuller of the Mississippi-based McHugh Fuller Law Group purchased a Learjet from Segal and contributed and campaigned for contributions to Davis’s re-election in 2012 – as he was handling the nursing home abuse case headed for the state’s high court.
Earlier this year, Davis authored the majority opinion upholding a jury verdict for Fuller’s client, but cut the punitive damages award from $80 million to about $32 million. The original jury verdict was worth more than $90 million. Fuller’s firm received a payout worth more than $17 million, according to the ABC News report.
“Unfortunately, the ethical questions that surround this transaction between a judge’s spouse and a personal injury lawyer who then appeared before the judge continue to go unanswered and raise concerns about our legal system," said Roman Stauffer of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. "We strongly believe there should be an outside, independent investigation into this transaction and the relationships among Justice Davis, her husband, and the personal injury lawyer."
In its press release, WV CALA said the following questions still aren't answered:
* Did Davis or her husband have a pre-existing personal or business relationship with the plaintiffs’ attorney who purchased the private jet? Have they or their law firms previously worked together on any cases or litigation?
* Why did Davis not disclose the airplane transaction between her husband and the plaintiffs’ attorney who appeared before her?
* Did Davis ever fly on the airplane that was allegedly owned by her husband’s law firm? If so, were those flights reported on Davis’ financial disclosure filings at the State Ethics Commission?
* When did Davis learn that her husband had sold the private jet to the plaintiffs’ attorney who would have a major case before the Supreme Court of Appeals?
* Why would out-of-state residents, with close ties to a personal injury lawyer with a major case before the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, be so interested in the re-election of Davis that they contributed more than $35,000 to her campaign? Also, even if Davis indicates she was not told of these contributions, aren’t they publicly available for anyone to see?
“These are questions that West Virginians want and deserve to have answered," Stauffer said. "Our organization’s members are committed to ensuring that all West Virginians have access to a fair and impartial judicial system."