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WVCALA: New Study Details Philosophical Alliance Among State Supreme Court Justices

Charleston, W.Va. – To help inform West Virginians about philosophical alliances among justices on the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (WV CALA) today released data outlining the ruling trends based on non-unanimous opinions issued by the state’s highest court.

“We are excited to release the first part of our research on this topic. It is vital for West Virginians to understand the judicial temperament of the justices on the high court, and this data will help them do so,” said Roman Stauffer, Executive Director of WV CALA.

According to data compiled by WV CALA on split decisions in the state Supreme Court of Appeal of West Virginia in recent years, Justice Robin Davis and Justice Margaret Workman were most likely to join together in non-unanimous decisions. The study found that:

  • Justice Davis and Justice Workman voted together 68 percent of the time
  • Justice Robin Davis and Justice Brent Benjamin joined opinions 58 percent of the time
  • Justice Robin Davis and Justice Menis Ketchum agreed 46 percent of the time
  • Justice Robin Davis and Justice Allen Loughry joined opinions only 38 percent of the time.

The Supreme Court terms covered during this portion of the research were from the Court’s Spring 2013 Term, when Justice Allen Loughry joined the Court, through the Spring 2015 Term, the most recent high court session. The data reviewed includes all cases with non-unanimous decisions, including memoranda decisions, during the time period.

“This information represents the first portion of our research on the ruling tendencies of the Court. We’re in the process of peeling back other layers, such as looking back through the Spring Term of 2009, when Justices Ketchum and Workman joined the Court. This extended look at decisions will give us much broader and historical picture. West Virginians deserve to know this information,” said Stauffer.

“We have seen several opinions from our Supreme Court in recent years that have raised concern. In one recent opinion, for example, the Court permitted drug abusers to sue pharmacies based on claims that pharmacies had responsibility for the drug abusers’ problems. Decisions such as these take our state backwards after our legislature took action to fight lawsuit abuse in the last legislative session. WV CALA will continue to educate West Virginians to help them decide if the judicial philosophy of those on the court reflects their own views,” concluded Stauffer.