October 9, 2008

Plaintiffs Lawyers in West Virginia Give $14,000 to Justices Considering Huge Punitive Damages Award

We've been blogging quite a bit about a West Virginia lawsuit against DuPont that resulted in a $400 million judgment, including $196.2 million in punitive damages. The case has generated quite a few headlines, culminating in last week's decision by the West Virginia Supreme Court to review the case on its merits.

Now the West Virginia Record is reporting that the plaintiffs' firms have given a combined $14,000 to two West Virginia Supreme Court justices who are seeking reelection. (A defense firm also donated $1,000 to one of the same justices.) As the story points out, one of the same plaintiffs' lawyers has publicly complained that DuPont unfairly influenced the judicial process by lobbying West Virginia's governor to file an amicus brief in the case. And that lawyer (whose office is in Florida, not West Virginia) has also complained about the unfair influence of the Chamber of Commerce in West Virginia.

Whenever I read about lawyers in other states donating large sums of money to the political campaigns of appellate justices, and then appearing before those same justices in high-stakes cases, I'm thankful that California's appellate justices don't have to run in contested elections.