West Virginia Record

Monday, March 30, 2020

Queen of the hellhole

By The West Virginia Record | Feb 4, 2010

Unlike most other states, West Virginia lacks an intermediate appellate court -- and State Supreme Court Chief Justice Robin wants to keep it that way. Her opinion is no doubt shared by attorneys who've prospered in our plaintiff-friendly lower courts, including her husband Scott Siegel.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor does not share that opinion, however. O'Connor was part of Gov. Joe Manchin's Independent Commission on Judicial Reform, which recommended an intermediate appellate court as one of several methods for reforming our embarrassingly inadequate judicial system.

Nor is Davis' opinion shared by the numerous defendants who've suffered outrageous decisions in our courts, such as Chesapeake Energy Corp.

Last May, the State Supreme Court denied a request from natural gas providers Chesapeake and NiSource to hear an appeal of a $405 million jury verdict against them. The sum consisted of $134.3 million in restitution for allegedly unpaid gas royalties to landowners and $270 million in punitive damages.

Denied an opportunity to appeal a questionable verdict, Chesapeake made its case in the court of public opinion, canceling plans for a $35 million regional headquarters in Charleston.

Chesapeake's 6,000 employees and 300,000 shareholders are not likely to agree with Davis either. The high court's refusal to hear their company's appeal may lead to lost jobs and diminished dividends.

The citizens of West Virginia may differ with Davis as well. We're the ones who suffer the most from our state's reputation as a judicial hellhole. Some plaintiffs lawyers get rich, some pro-plaintiff judges get hefty campaign contributions, and terrorized businesses have the option of moving to friendlier states. taking jobs and opportunities and tax revenues with them.

The rest of us are stuck here to deal with fewer jobs and dwindling opportunities. Living in a hellhole is OK if you're the queen, but it's no picnic for us.

Thank you, Queen Robin, for perpetuating our penury.

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