West Virginia Record

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

CALA study shows alliances in state Supreme Court rulings

By Chris Dickerson | Jul 10, 2015

CHARLESTON – A new West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit study shows how the justices on the state Supreme Court vote with each other.

The data released by WV CALA outlines the ruling trends based on non-unanimous opinions issued by the state’s highest court, according to a press release from the organization.

“We are excited to release the first part of our research on this topic," Executive Director Roman Stauffer said. "It is vital for West Virginians to understand the judicial temperament of the justices on the high court, and this data will help them do so."

According to the data compiled on split decisions for recent years, Justice Robin Davis and Justice Margaret Workman were most likely to join together in non-unanimous decisions.

The study found that Davis and Workman voted together 68 percent of the time. Davis and Justice Brent Benjamin joined opinions 58 percent of the time. Davis and Justice Menis Ketchum agreed 46 percent of the time. Davis and Justice Allen Loughry joined opinions only 38 percent of the time.

The Supreme Court terms covered during this portion of the research were from the Court’s Spring 2013 Term – when Loughry joined the Court – through the Spring 2015 Term, the most recent session. The data reviewed includes all cases with non-unanimous decisions, including memoranda decisions, during the time period.

“This information represents the first portion of our research on the ruling tendencies of the Court," Stauffer said. "We’re in the process of peeling back other layers, such as looking back through the Spring Term of 2009 when Justices Ketchum and Workman joined the Court.

"This extended look at decisions will give us much broader and historical picture. West Virginians deserve to know this information."

Stauffer said his group has seen several opinions in recent years that have raised concern.

“In one recent opinion, for example, the Court permitted drug abusers to sue pharmacies based on claims that pharmacies had responsibility for the drug abusers’ problems," he said. "Decisions such as these take our state backward after our Legislature took action to fight lawsuit abuse in the last legislative session.

"WV CALA will continue to educate West Virginians to help them decide if the judicial philosophy of those on the court reflects their own views."

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