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U.S. Supreme Court to hear W.Va. case

Nov. 14, 2008 at 8:00 PM

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court Friday agreed to hear a case involving campaign contributions a company chief executive made during a West Virginia Supreme Court race.

The case involves contributions made by Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship to Justice Brent Benjamin, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Critics have charged that Blankenship's contributions played a role in electing a justice who subsequently overturned a $50 million ruling against the energy company.

"We are confident the high court will not allow this case to stand, because people would have a license to contribute vast sums of money to elect judges with the expectation that those judges can then decide their case," said attorney David Fawcett.

Fawcett represents Hugh Caperton, a West Virginia coal company owner who sued a Massey affiliate in 1998 over an alleged fraud. A lower court in 2002 awarded Caperton $50 million in damages. The decision Massey appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court.

The newspaper reported that Caperton's attorneys asked two justices to recuse themselves, including Benjamin, who won a seat on the high court in 2004.

Benjamin remained on the case, and the court ruled in Massey's favor twice by a 3-2 margin, with Benjamin both times casting the deciding vote.

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