Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is big enough to fight his own fights.

But his latest clash, targeting a power-mad member of the state Supreme Court who loves to publicly rail on him but refuses to recuse himself from Blankenship's cases, is one even the littlest little guy should heed.

In defending himself, the controversial coal executive is standing up for the rest of us.

The principle is a simple one -- no West Virginian should be forced to appear before a judge who openly and admittedly hates their guts.

Such is the relationship between Blankenship and Supreme Court Justice Larry Starcher, who has called the coal executive "stupid" and a "clown" while attacking his business as bad for the state.

"I think he has no real concern or interest in the betterment of West Virginia," Justice Starcher explained last year to a Bluefield newspaper reporter, attacking Blankenship for having the nerve to exhibit political views that diverge from his own class warfare leftism.

We all have a constitutional right to speak our minds. But one cannot yell "fire" in a movie theatre without consequences. And a man whose job it is to be impartial doesn't have a right to be viewed as such when he openly admits he is not.

Starcher's job is to be fair and retain the public trust. Engaging in such a deliberate, cold-cocked verbal assault from the bench is worse than unbecoming of a justice, it undermines the integrity of our state's highest court.

More broadly, Starcher's big mouth represents the root of that civil justice problem so plaguing West Virginia's economy. That's the problem that prevents other Fortune 500 companies from expanding within our borders, for fear they'll become yet another bogeyman in the crosshairs of an activist judge or a marauding attorney general -- just like Massey Energy.

In the case of Starcher v. Blankenship, rhetoric is apparently just the first act. By refusing to take himself off Massey-related cases, Starcher has made it clear that he intends to use his special judicial privileges and position to settle a personal score.

For all of our sakes, we shouldn't let him.




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