WV Supreme Court oral arguments begin Sept. 4 - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

WV Supreme Court oral arguments begin Sept. 4

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Photo courtesy of the West Virginia Supreme Court. Photo courtesy of the West Virginia Supreme Court.
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The West Virginia Supreme Court is kicking off the first day of its fall term Sept. 4 with 12 cases set for oral arguments.

The fall term is the court's second term and runs from September through November.

Massey shareholders case

The first case set for oral arguments at 10 a.m. is a case filed by Massey Energy shareholders against Massey Energy Company and its board of directors.

Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust filed the lawsuit in Kanawha County Circuit Court derivatively on behalf of Massey Energy Company, asserting its board members turned a blind eye to safety and to federal and state regulations, which has hurt the company's financial standing.

Defendants in the case were listed as Don Blankenship, Baxter Phillips Jr,. Gordon Gee, Richard M. Gabrys, James B. Crawford, Bobby R. Inman, Robert H. Foglesong, Stanley C. Suboleski, J. Christopher Adkins, M. Shane Harvey, Mark A Climens, Elizabeth S. Chamberlin and Richard R. Grinnan and Massey Energy Company, now known as Alpha Appalachia Holdings Inc.

Chief Justice Brent Benjamin has recused himself from this case and Senior Status Justice Thomas McHugh will sit in his place.

A Kanawha County Circuit Court judge granted the defendants' motions to dismiss Manville's petition for civil contempt and also vacated a 2008 order.

According to court documents, in May 2008, both sides executed a stipulation of settlement, providing a release of claims that could have been asserted derivatively on behalf of Massey.

The stipulation provided Massey would implement agreed corporate governance changes under a corporate governance agreement. This stipulation was approved by the court in June 2008.

Manville later filed a petition alleging certain Massey officers were violating the 2008 order because they said the corporate social responsibility report did not contain a worker safety compliance.

The lower court ruled Manville did not have standing to enforce the settlement other than derivatively on behalf of Massey and whether they can file it derivatively would be governed by Delaware law.

Before the state's highest court, Manville asserts Massey Energy officers and directors did not comply with the lower court's order, which they say mandated the monitoring of violations and safety issues.

Manville argued the court also should have applied state law pursuant to a choice-of-law provision and should not have found that an exception warranted application of Delaware law.

In their court brief, Massey officers assert Manville did not bring forth any new issues.

"Although petitioners spend almost one-third of their brief … on the tragic explosion at Massey subsidiary Performance Coal Company's Upper Big Branch mine … and respondents' purported noncompliance with the 2008 order, these are not the issues before the court in the instant proceeding," the brief states.

The brief asserts Manville's arguments should be rejected because when Alpha and Massey merged, Manville no longer owned Massey shares and thus, lacked standing to seek contempt.

Ethan Chic-Colbert

The West Virginia Supreme Court also will hear the case of Ethan Chic-Colbert, who was found guilty by a Kanawha County jury of beating his girlfriend in the middle of Interstate 77 and neglecting an 11-year-old child who later was struck and killed by an oncoming vehicle.

In their July 2012 verdict, the jury found Ethan Chic-Colbert guilty of domestic battery, child neglect by a parent guardian or custodian resulting in the death of a child and gross child neglect creating the risk of serious bodily injury or death.

Chic-Colbert was sentenced to between six and 30 years in prison. This case was featured on TruTV's "In Session."

Kanawha County prosecutors asserted Chic-Colbert pulled his girlfriend Lynitrah Woodson out of the car and punched her with both fists.

In his testimony, Chic-Colbert said Woodson grabbed him as he tried to get out of the car and said the fight continued in the middle of the road. He testified that to make her stop, he slammed her head against the ground.

Woodson's 11-year-old son, Jahlil Clements, ran from the car across two lanes of traffic to try to flag down motorists. Clements was struck by an oncoming vehicle.

Chic-Colbert said in his testimony that he did not see the car strike Clements.

In his brief to the state's highest court, Chic-Colbert argues the jury convicted him of a crime in which the indictment did not charge.  

Chic-Colbert said the court should not have imposed a sentence for his conviction of child neglect, relating to Clement's death.  He also argues he should have been acquitted on the charge of gross child neglect because there was not enough evidence to support that he accepted a supervisor role toward Clement's friends.

The brief asserts the case is relevant for appeal because the judge denied his motion for change of venue, even though, he says the case was subject to "intense media coverage" and caused jurors to have emotional reactions to the evidence.

In its brief, the state argues Chic-Colbert failed to object to the child neglect charge before trial and the issue was waived.

The state also argues there was evidence to support the gross neglect child because of Woodson's testimony that Chic-Colbert helped her watch the two friends.

To view the full docket, visit http://www.courtswv.gov/supreme-court/calendar/2013/dockets/sept-4-13ad.html.