McMahon — Letter to Editor

Dear Editor:

   I urge your readers to vote for Justice John A. Hutchinson for the West Virginia Supreme Court. He is already a Supreme Court Justice! He was originally appointed to the Supreme Court by Governor Jim Justice. He would now be elected to an unexpired term for Division 3.

   I have been a lawyer for 40 years, and I have been in front of the West Virginia Supreme Court more than a dozen times. So I have followed the justices of the Supreme Court. I can tell you Justice Hutchinson has already been one of the finest.

   Most recently I helped defend the property rights of surface land owners when oil gas well drillers showed up. The drillers said they not only had a right to put a multi-acre pad for drilling horizontal wells into the mineral tract under the surface  tract where the well pad was being located – those drillers were saying that they had a right to use that surface owner’s land, without their permission, to drill miles of horizontal well bores into surrounding mineral tracts with all of the additional damage and disturbance that would cause.

   Justice Hutchinson wrote the unanimous decision of the West Virginia Supreme Court that disagreed with the drillers and supported surface landowners. “Our opinion merely restates a bright-line rule founded long ago in the common law that surfaces owners and mineral owners (or their lessees) can easily navigate.”

   It would not be appropriate for me to thank Justice Hutchinson for deciding the case for my clients. His decision, as it should have been, was based on the law and not on who would be thankful. But I thank him for how well written  it was. The opinion established a clear and simple principle of land ownership using language that the drillers cannot find a way around and that does not require a surface owner to go to court to protect their property.

   I urge your readers to vote to return Justice John A. Hutchinson to Division 3 of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.


David B. McMahon, J.D.