In an appeal filed Tuesday, attorneys Thomas Rist and Roger Forman also urged the high court to overturn contempt convictions resulting from the violation of those restraining orders.
Massey spokesman Jeff Gillenwater said the company and its subsidiaries would respond in court, where they have 30 days to file an answer. The Supreme Court will then decide whether to hear the matter.
The case began early last year, when Raleigh County Circuit Judge Robert Burnside granted two temporary restraining orders against 11 people affiliated with Climate Ground Zero. The group’s ongoing campaign of civil disobedience has produced more than 100 arrests since Feb. 2009.
On April 16, activists William Wickham, Madeline Gardner, Charles Suggs IV and Jordan Freeman hung a banner over a highwall at an active blasting site at Massey’s Edwight mine. On May 1, they were convicted of contempt, fined and ordered to pay nearly $20,000 in legal fees, a sum they claim “could be financially ruinous.”
While the four “may have known vaguely about the orders relating to others,” their lawyers argue, they were never informed the orders applied to them.
In fact, the petition complains Burnside’s temporary restraining orders were so vague they “arguably enjoined the entire world from taking actions” against Massey.
“These TROs are incredible in the illegality of their scope” and effectively curtail all free-speech activities, the petition says.
Burnside’s orders prohibit protesters from trespassing onto any mining property and interfering with any coal operating equipment or vehicles owned by Massey or its subsidiaries, in any location.
Climate Ground Zero’s appeal also defends the actions of Antrim Caskey, a photographer who moved from New York to Rock Creek to document the destruction from mountaintop mining. The petition claims she is an embedded photojournalist and should be exempt from the restraining order, but Burnside has previously ruled no such protection exists under state law.
A similar battle over restraining orders is being waged in federal court.
Although U.S. District Judge Irene Berger had barred protesters from trespassing on Massey property, three activists entered a Marfork Coal Co. office near Pettus last month and chained themselves to chairs in the lobby.
Climate Ground Zero founder Mike Roselle and Thomas Smyth of White Plains, N.Y., remain in the Southern Regional Jail on charges of trespassing, conspiracy and obstruction.