AP FOIA case has cost Supreme Court $30,000 so far

By Chris Dickerson | Sep 26, 2008


CHARLESTON – The state Supreme Court has been billed about $30,000 so far for its defense of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by The Associated Press.

In addition, the Court has been billed about $428,000 for defense of a federal lawsuit brought against it by Massey Energy over the way justices recuse themselves from cases.

"Well, the Court has received, so far, just over $30,000 in bills," Court Administrator Steve Canterbury said when asked about the cost of the AP litigation. "And we have a few more coming in."

He clarified that he isn't sure the full cost of the suit to the state because the AP's attorney called a West Virginia University law professor as an expert witness.

"And I have no idea how much they paid him," Canterbury said.

Earlier this month, Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom ordered the AP's FOIA request be honored in five of 13 e-mails sent between Chief Justice Spike Maynard and Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

Canterbury also said the Court has been billed $428,000 by the Tinney Law Firm for work done on the federal case Massey brought against the Court.

The case concerns statements made by current Supreme Court Justice Larry Starcher concerning Massey and its CEO, Don Blankenship.

Massey argues that Starcher has shown a personal bias against both, and that the company (and subsidiary Marfolk Coal) would be unfairly treated if Starcher is allowed to participate in the cases against Massey currently before the Court. Starcher has publicly called Blankenship "stupid" and "a clown."

This summer, Massey also filed a lawsuit over the Court's refusal of a FOIA request seeking Starcher's e-mails. Canterbury said the Court hasn't received in bills regarding that case yet.

"It's in the hands of the lawyers," Canterbury said.

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