CLARKSBURG – Former West Virginia University football coach Rich Rodriguez can't claim Michigan citizenship to escape Monongalia County jurisdiction over a $4 million lawsuit against him, attorneys for the university argue in federal court.
In a Jan. 18 motion for remand from U. S. District Court in Clarksburg to the county courthouse in Morgantown, Charleston attorney Jeffrey Wakefield of Charleston disputed Rodriguez's claim that he became a Michigan man before Dec. 27 when the university sued him.
"Rodriguez was personally served with the summons and complaint at his West Virginia residence on December 29," wrote Wakefield.
"Upon information and belief," he wrote, "Rodriguez's wife and children continue to reside in the West Virginia residence and his children continue to attend school in West Virginia."
On Jan. 10, he claimed, Rodriguez sent an envelope from his West Virginia address. Wakefield attached to the motion a copy of the envelope.
From Wakefield's point of view, District Judge John Bailey doesn't even need to consider evidence of citizenship.
Wakefield argues that the university is an arm of the state and not a citizen of the state, as Rodriguez alleged in removing the suit to federal court.
In support of his position Wakefield relies on an unlikely source -– Charleston attorney Sean McGinley, who represents Rodriguez.
According to Wakefield, McGinley once represented Attorney General Darrell McGraw and "successfully took the position that the action was not removable for diversity as neither the State nor its alter ago is a citizen for purposes of diversity jurisdiction."
The university seeks a declaration that it can enforce its contract with Rodriguez. The contract obligates him to pay $4 million payment for early termination.
Rodriguez resigned Dec. 19 to take the coaching job at the University of Michigan.
McGinley removed the suit to federal court Jan. 15, arguing that when the university sued Rodriguez he had moved to a Michigan address, hooked up a Michigan telephone, obtained a Michigan driver's license and registered as a Michigan voter.
McGinley practices at DiTrapano Barrett and DiPiero of Charleston. Marvin Robon and Ethan Davis of Maumee, Ohio, also represent Rodriguez.
Wakefield practices at Flaherty, Sensabaugh and Bonasso of Charleston. Thomas Flaherty of the firm serves as lead counsel for the university.