Judge: Clerk who worked for UMWA, wrote Upper Big Branch article is not on Blankenship case



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BECKLEY, West Virginia — The judge overseeing Don Blankenship's criminal proceedings says a law clerk who wrote an article about the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster isn't working on the case.

In Beckley federal court filings Thursday, Judge Irene Berger wrote that the case was always assigned to a different clerk, not Cynthia Wildfire.

Blankenship's lawyers expressed concern that Wildfire's article from law school included conclusions and opinions about Upper Big Branch.

The clerk also worked as a law clerk for the United Mine Workers of America, an organization with which Blankenship has feuded.

Blankenship is charged with conspiring to violate safety standards at Upper Big Branch, a Massey Energy mine when Blankenship was the company's CEO. A blast there killed 29 men in 2010, marking the deadliest U.S. mine disaster in four decades.

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