WHEELING – West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw has sued Comcast cable company, claiming it violates state antitrust and consumer laws by making viewers rent its boxes to receive its premium programs.

McGraw sued Comcast in Marshall Circuit Court at Moundsville in July, seeking statutory penalties and other relief.

Comcast removed the suit to U.S. District Court in Wheeling on Aug. 3, asserting federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act.

On Aug. 13, McGraw's Chief Deputy AG Fran Hughes moved to remand it to Marshall County, denying that McGraw intends to pursue a class action.

Hughes defined the action as enforcement of laws McGraw is authorized to enforce.

State antitrust and consumer laws don't permit individual recovery, she wrote. Removal would violate West Virginia's sovereign immunity, she wrote.

"Securing an honest marketplace, as Attorney General McGraw seeks to do here, is a well established quasi-sovereign interest," she wrote.

U.S. District Judge Frederick Stamp must decide where the suit belongs.

Though Hughes denied that the suit seeks class action, Comcast lawyers described it as virtually identical to a class action that Harry Bell of Charleston filed this year.

Bell's name doesn't appear on McGraw's pleadings.

Private practice lawyers Teresa Toriseva of Wheeling and Carl Frankovitch of Weirton appear on the pleadings as special assistants to McGraw.

Bell's suit bounced from federal court in Charleston to a multi district judge presiding over cable box litigation in Pennsylvania.

McGraw and Hughes, fearing transfer of their suit from federal court to the multi district judge, filed an emergency motion for a hearing with their motion to remand.

As of Aug. 20, Stamp had not set a hearing.

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