Justice Larry Starcher says there's a cancer ailing West Virginia's Supreme Court.
What we see is a wounded lame duck thrashing about.
Wrapping up a dozen years on the bench, Starcher is leaving at year-end. It's clear he doesn't intend to go gracefully. Leveraging the last gasps of his public life, he's chosen to use the inherent prestige of his office as a hammer.
Starcher's intended primary targets--fellow Democrat Justice Spike Maynard and coal executive Don Blankenship--are predictable. Less so is how much collateral damage his publicity campaign will wreak upon public confidence in West Virginia's judiciary.
This week, ABC News came to Charleston from Manhattan, its reporters apparently looking to rehash the story of Maynard and Blankenship's longtime friendship for a Monday night Nightline segment.
Starcher made himself available to talk with them, sources told The Record. One could picture him rooting the network on.
When it comes to journalism that spurs public discourse, we here at The Record are unanimous--the more the merrier. But it's disconcerting to think that a sitting high court justice might play publicity hound.
This dust up is yesterday's media firestorm. It was still football season when Maynard recused himself from all cases involving Blankenship and his company, Massey Energy.
"It is not enough to do Justice," Maynard wrote at the time. "Justice must also satisfy the appearance of justice."
It was an important point. Maynard could have fought the charges he couldn't be impartial. He could have counter-argued and used the public spotlight to push back.
He didn't, because right or wrong, Maynard figured the process and resulting public sniping would contribute to a negative perception about West Virginia's highest court.
Which brings us back to Starcher, who has scheduled an unprecedented and meaningless April 10 public hearing into his own impartiality in a Massey case before the court, almost promising a media circus that guarantees our High Court more news cycles rife with hostility and strife.
A venerable and respected high court? Not this year.