Bruce Stanley Discusses "The Price of Justice"

We all know money talks, but surely not to the American justice system, right?  Bruce Stanely knows it does, at least in West Virginia where powerful coal baron Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy, bought two West Virginia Supreme Court Justices.  Stanely, presenting the book about his experience, The Price of Justice, told 55 attendees in an overflow crowd at Carmichael’s Book Store Frankfort Ave. about the 14-year struggle he took part in against Massey Energy and its coal baron mastermind Blankenship.  The struggle would result in sabotaged computers, behind the scenes trips to the French Riviera, betrayal by disgruntled lovers, and winning a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.  It’s the sort of intrigue that usually belongs in a Grisham novel—in fact, Grisham has publicly said he wishes he wrote the book. 

The case began with a tortious interference with contract and fraud claim after Blankenship rigged a cancellation of a rivals contract and delayed an agreement to buy the financially crippled competitor.  After a $50 million judgment against Massey in West Virginia State Court, Blankenship dug in his heals and decided the plaintiff would never see the money.  His strategy:  make friends with the chief justice and buy an election for a second.

A series of appeals took the case to the West Virginia Supreme Court where Stanely found Justice Benjamin, who had received $3 million in campaign contributions from Blankenship personally in the wake of the judgment.  Benjamin overruled the motion for him to recues himself, claiming he could judge the case fairly.  During the argument, Chief Justice Maynard, who it would turn out had been treated to an all-expenses paid trip to the French Riviera for two with Blankenship and his significant other, walked out of the court room and was not seen again until Stanley’s team’s argument was finished.  One other justice agreed, overturning the jury verdict 3-2. 

Stanely, though, did not give up.  He took it upon himself to take a number of other cases against Massey Energy.  At the same time he filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and waited anxiously.  In the meantime, a secretary working in the West Virginia Supreme Court had a falling out with Justice Maynard, inspiring her to send Stanely a CD-ROM with all the French Riviera vacation photos in an unmarked manila envelope.  Years later the U.S. Supreme Court would hear the case, but only after an editorial on the corruption ran in the New York Times, earning widespread attention for the issue. 

Battling the interests of the rich and powerful is never easy, but it can be nearly impossible when they interfere with the impartiality of the court system.  Bruce Stanely, however, knows first hand that diligence and hard work can root out even the most entrenched injustice.  Blankenship may still be at large, but thanks to Stanely and other hard working attorneys dedication despite the odds at least everyone knows what Blankenship and people like him can do to corrupt justice. 

Thank you Mr. Stanely for sharing your story, and thank you Carmichael’s for hosting the event and donating books to KFTC for new and renewing members.  Four people joined KFTC and two renewed their memberships at the event.

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