Supremes pass on second West Virginia case

Just weeks ago the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review West Virginia case asking whether an elected judge’s refusal to recuse himself from considering a case involving his biggest campaign contributor violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. But today the Court declined to take up a related case from the state.

The court unanimously declined cert in Central West Virginia Energy Co. v. Wheeling-Pittsburg Steel. In that case, the state appellate court denied, without comment or a hearing, a petition to appeal a $219 million jury verdict with included a $100 punitive award. That case also involved a justice with ties to the parties who declined to recuse himself. More on the cases here from Lawyers USA.

In all but two states – West Virginia and Virginia – losing parties can appeal as of right under either the state constitution or a state statute. But while Virginia does not provide for an appeal as of right, there is a $350,000 statutory cap on punitive damages awards.

That leaves West Virginia as the only state where multi-million-dollar punitive awards may be denied review.

A petition for cert in a third related case, NiSource v. Tawney, was voluntarily dismissed last week.

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