CHARLESTON – Chief Justice Robin Davis of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals rapped the knuckles of Justices Larry Starcher and Joseph Albright for putting public libraries ahead of the constitution.
In a concurring opinion Jan. 3, Davis told Starcher and Albright they strayed from the question in their dissents over a Dec. 4 school funding decision.
In the decision, Davis and Justices Spike Maynard and Brent Benjamin found that the state school aid formula unconstitutionally discriminated against nine counties with library taxes.
The majority directed the Legislature to adjust school aid for the nine counties. They stayed the decision to July 1, first day of the next fiscal year.
Starcher and Albright regarded the decision as an attack on libraries. Their lamentations evoked barbarians burning the books of Alexandria.
In their urgency they dissented on the date of the majority opinion. Starcher joined Albright's dissent, and Albright joined Starcher's.
Davis, however, preserved the last word for herself.
Justices normally do not concur in majority opinions unless they reach the same results from different points of view, but Davis made an exception.
She wrote that the majority astutely recognized an aberration and the dissenters did not.
She wrote, "In their dissenting opinions, my colleagues stray from the question brought before the Court, writing treatises which attack the alleged effect the majority's opinion will have on public libraries statewide instead of appreciating the hindrance to fundamental constitutional educational opportunities that would undoubtedly continue if the majority had, as hoped by the dissenters, left well enough alone."
She wrote, "The viability of public libraries, however, is neither the issue presented for resolution in this case nor the reason for or result of the decision reached by the majority of the Court."
She wrote, "In short, the majority concluded that because the schools attended by children in the Counties of Kanawha, Berkeley, Hardy, Harrison, Ohio, Raleigh, Tyler, Upshur, and Wood did not receive the full amount of educational dollars to which they were entitled, because a portion of said monies had been legislatively diverted to fund the public libraries in those locales, the pupils in those counties were not receiving the education that had been constitutionally guaranteed to them."