Larry Starcher's suspicions

By The West Virginia Record | Sep 28, 2007

West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Larry Starcher is no bigot. But he is prejudiced.

That's against free enterprise, not Pakistani-Americans.

We draw such a distinction today in Justice Starcher's defense. This in light of the latest unbecoming episode to befall West Virginia's highest court, in which his big mouth is (again) starring as the protagonist.

The details, emanating from an institution entrusted with dispensing justice in our state, are frankly hard to fathom.

As reported exclusively by The Record last week, Judge Starcher drew shrieks and gasps while hearing cases before a large public audience at Marshall University last week, after he asked whether a lawyer seated before him was a Pakistani.

When told she, in fact, was, Starcher offered a brusque and sneering response.

"I suspected that."

Shaleeza Altaf, an attorney with Dombroff & Gilmore in Washington, D.C., was in Huntington to represent Virginia-based Colgan Air, accused of discriminating against a Pakistani pilot it fired in 2001 after he failed a proficiency check.

Sitting second-chair, Ms. Altaf hadn't announced her nationality to the court, nor was she wearing a Pakistani national flag on her blazer. That Altaf clearly wasn't Scotch-Irish, however, had Starcher suspicious.

"I simply chose to call (Colgan's) hand by pointing out what I consider the 'argument prop,' 'the window dressing,' (it) was using ... to enhance (its) argument," Starcher explained later, in response to a motion by Colgan to disqualify him from hearing its case.

Perhaps Judge Starcher has Asian anthropology expertise of which we're unaware. Maybe he's been vacationing in Karachi so often he can now pinpoint a person of Pakistani decent at just a glance.

But it's more likely his gravely insulting public "suspicion" of Ms. Altaf's nationality originated elsewhere -- in Starcher's own undying cynicism toward corporations.

To this Supreme Court justice, businesses can do no right. They do no good and they're always up to something bad.

In Starcher's eyes, Colgan Air was more than just already guilty when it came before him. It was still scheming, maliciously trotting out a brown-skinned lawyer in a case about a brown-skinned pilot, so as to subconsciously try and compromise his anti-corporate principles.

A man with such exhibited biases has no business sitting on West Virginia's Supreme Court, much less hearing cases involving corporate defendants.

Justice Starcher should be removed from the Colgan case and swiftly reprimanded for his shameful comments. Public confidence in our state's judiciary is at stake.

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