High court drama on tap

If you are going to be inside the U.S. Supreme Court building this morning, there is no doubt that you are in for a legal treat. Today the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in one of the most anticipated cases of the term: Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co.

The facts of the case alone are compelling enough to draw a crowd: company gets hit with massive jury verdict, company almost wholly finances the multi-million-dollar campaign of an appellate judge, and once the judge is elected, then the company appeals.

If the justices’ questions about whether such a judge violates due process by refusing to recuse himself from his donor’s case are as lively as they were in yesterday’s DNA evidence case, today’s argument promises to be among the term’s most interesting.

freyolsonAdd the fact that the attorneys on either side of the case present a virtual legal Battle of the Titans: on one side, learned high court litigator Andy Frey from Mayer Brown; on the other, Supreme Court specialist Ted Olson from Gibson Dunn.

Today the court will be filled with everyone from reporters covering the case to students who have been studying the matter (including Prof. George Cochran‘s constitutional law class, which came all the way from the University of Mississippi School of law. DC Dicta had the pleasure of chatting with Prof. Cochran and the students about the case and the Court this past weekend.)

We’ve been watching this case since before certiorari was granted, and we’ll be there today, so stay tuned.


One Response to High court drama on tap

  1. Charles Duke says:

    The story as written does not appear accurate from what I have read. Massey’s CEO spent money himself to defeat an incumbent opponent who he intensely disliked. He did not contribute to Benjamin’s campaign. This is a distinction that is a difference. Much money is spent by attorneys in various states to defeat or elect judges (to say nothing of Presidents) without contributing to a campaign and spend to support or oppose ballot initiatives. Spending money to oppose a judge is not only risky, it does not necessarily engratiate yourself with the other candidate if they win. Also, remember, in this case one other judge voted in favor of the reversal – is he or she supposedly biased also? It is also worthy to note that Judge Benjamin has ruled against Massey 5 times subsequently. This is a two edged sword that could work very much against attorneys in the long run. If a judge has to recuse themselves from every case in which a party or an attorney spent money – for or against – in a campaign involving that judge it is not going to be good. These matters have been handled by the states and creating another US Constitutional “right” will have many unintended consequences.

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