Massey had a $70 million case before the state Supreme Court and, once elected, Benjamin made the controversial decision not to recuse himself because of Blankenship's support of him and to hear arguments anyway. Another member of the court hearing the case was Chief Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard. He later recused himself after photographs surfaced showing that he vacationed with Blankenship in the French Riviera.
When an ABC News reporter tried to interview Blankenship about the possible conflicts in the parking lot of a Massey Energy office in Belfry, Ky., Blankenship became agitated.
"If you're going to start taking pictures of me, you're liable to get shot," Blankenship told the reporter before grabbing his camera.
Blankenship later told the Charleston Daily Mail he couldn't recall making any threats. "Quite frankly, I don't know what I said except that I know I'm never loud, vulgar or rude to strangers," he said.
The conflicts surrounding the state Supreme Court saga triggered a cascade of changes, including a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that called on judges to recuse themselves when major donors come before them in court, and a vote by the West Virginia legislature to adopt public financing of judicial campaigns.