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AP asks West Virginia court to reconsider judicial e-mail decision

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  1. Freedom of Information
The Associated Press has asked the West Virginia Supreme Court to reconsider its November ruling that e-mail messages exchanged between…

The Associated Press has asked the West Virginia Supreme Court to reconsider its November ruling that e-mail messages exchanged between its former justice and a coal executive were not subject to public records laws, The Associated Press reported.

The state supreme court’s 4-1 decision overturned a lower court’s ruling that five e-mail messages between Supreme Court Chief Justice Elliot "Spike" Maynard and Don Blankenship, an executive at Massey Energy, were not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Maynard later stepped down after his relationship with Massey — who was involved in matters before the court — came to light.

In its petition for a rehearing, the AP argued that the West Virginia legislature meant for the FOIA law to apply liberally.

"The dreadful message sent by this Court’s opinion is that questions about a judge’s impartiality are none of the public’s business," the AP said in its filing. "To suggest that such records are none of the public’s business is not just wrong factually and legally, it is bad public policy."

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press previously filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the state Supreme Court.