W.Va. Supreme Court issues stay in ‘right-to-work’ case

RICHWOOD, W.Va. — The state Supreme Court has ordered a stay in a “right-to-work” case that has been under review in the courts system for three years.

That kept a circuit judge’s ruling that was issued in late February from becoming the law of the land right away.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey tweeted an image of the order on Friday evening. Morrisey and outside counsel filed a motion for the stay two days ago. Three days ago, the Attorney General’s office filed a notice of appeal of the circuit judge’s ruling.

“Allowing the circuit court’s order to take effect would engender confusion among employees, unions and employers as to the appropriate legal framework for negotiating collective bargaining agreements while this appeal is pending,” lawyers for the Attorney General wrote in the motion for a stay.

The stay order specified that House Speaker Tim Armstead, who was Speaker of the House of Delegates when West Virginia’s “right-to-work” law passed in 2016, was disqualified from participating in the stay opinion.

The state AFL-CIO stated Friday evening that it opposed the stay but was not surprised.

“Although we were opposed, we are not surprised by the state Supreme Court’s decision to extend the stay of the circuit court order.  We look forward to the next step of this process in our quest to protect our property rights and our liberties under the state’s constitution,” stated AFL-CIO President Josh Sword.

Kanawha Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey  struck down key components of West Virginia’s 2016 right-to-work legislation on Feb. 27, exactly a month before Morrisey asked for the stay.

“The new law will require unions and union officials to work, to supply their valuable expertise and to provide expensive services for nothing,” Bailey wrote in her 46-page ruling. “That is, in a word, arbitrary.”

West Virginia’s newly-Republican Legislature passed the “right-to-work” law, which would allow employees to opt out of union dues even if other employees receive union representation, in 2016.

West Virginia’s labor unions filed a lawsuit over the new law shortly after that.

Bailey issued an injunction in 2017 while she considered her ruling. The state Supreme Court overruled the injunction later that year, scolding the judge for taking so long.

Since then, the Supreme Court has changed significantly.

Justice Menis Ketchum, who wrote the majority opinion in the injunction, received probation last month on a federal wire fraud charge. Former Justice Allen Loughry, who was also in the majority on that opinion, has been sentenced to two years in prison on fraud charges.

With them in the majority ruling was current Chief Justice Beth Walker.

Robin Davis, a justice who dissented, resigned from the court. Justice Margaret Workman, who dissented in part and concurred in part, remains on the court.

The current Supreme Court includes former Republican lawmakers Armstead and Evan Jenkins. The other new justice is former Circuit Judge John Hutchison.

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