In search of the puppeteer

By The West Virginia Record | May 16, 2008

Democrat primary voters have spoken. West Virginia State Supreme Court Justice Spike Maynard won't return to the bench next year.

But that shouldn't relegate the curious circumstances of his exit to the old-news-is-no-news category.

The veteran judge had to be stunned watching his political career fade this spring after photographs surfaced showing Maynard and Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship socializing on the French Riviera.

Four months and a primary election later, Maynard's judicial career is over. Yet that vague, operative word still remains: "surfaced."

That's "surfaced," as in how did those photographs of Maynard and Blankenship show up, gift-wrapped and devoid of a single fingerprint.

The photographs were a temporary boon for the lawyers at Harman Mining, at the time desperate for ways to preserve a $76 million verdict against its rival Massey, that was on appeal with the state Supreme Court. Harman submitted the photographs to the court as evidence that Maynard shouldn't be trusted to be objective in his deliberations.

The photos set off a media firestorm. The story of a Supreme Court Justice mingling in Monaco with a prominent executive with a big business case before his court proved juicy, even the New York Times and ABC News flew in to Charleston to cover the fireworks.

So now that Maynard is on his way out, where did those photographs come from? How did the pictures get to Harman? Were members of the Bar involved in some way?

Who worked the backstage strings that led to Justice Spike Maynard's downfall? Given the information from phone records and e-mails that has surfaced recently, these questions are worth asking.

The answers aren't needed just to ponder the details of one man's political epitaph or to satisfy our journalistic curiosity.

On behalf of our court's integrity, the public is entitled to know more about the facts behind the release of the infamous photographs.

The public deserves closure. It shouldn't be left to wonder about West Virginia's most important judges and the rumor mill of accusations concerning positions of power being using to settle personal, partisan scores.

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