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Professor John Korzen to kick off spring semester SCOTUS talks

Professor John Korzen will kick off the law school’s “SCOTUS Talks” speaker’s series for students this spring at noon on Wednesday, March 18, in Room 1312.

The case Korzen will discuss is Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co. Inc. The issue in Caperton is whether the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment ever requires judicial recusal based on an elected judge’s receipt of campaign support from one of the litigants in a case?

The case involves Don Blankenship, who is the CEO, Chairman, President and owner of 250,000 shares of stock of Massey Coal Co., one of the largest coal companies in the world. From August 2004 until November 2004, Blankenship spent $3 million supporting the campaign of Brent Benjamin, a candidate for the West Virginia Supreme Court. Blankenship’s expenditures were more than 60 percent of all money spent on Benjamin’s behalf.

At the time, Massey was preparing to appeal a $50 million jury verdict of compensatory and punitive damages based on Massey’s unlawful interference with the business relations of one of its competitors and fraud. Benjamin won the election and then repeatedly refused to recuse himself while Massey’s appeal was before the West Virginia Supreme Court.

By a 3-2 vote, with newly elected Justice Benjamin in the majority, the court reversed the $50 million verdict against Massey.On March 3, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments as to whether Justice Benjamin should have recused himself. Professor Korzen and Wake Forest law students in the Appellate Advocacy Clinic were present for the arguments.

“SCOTUS Talks” feature law faculty members discussing recent and pending Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) cases throughout the academic year. The talks are held at noon during the activities hour in the large courtroom with food provided. Students have the opportunity to raise questions about the implications of these important cases.