CHARLESTON — A hearing has been scheduled for June in a case challenging where Gov. Jim Justice resides.
Justice's counsel, Michael W. Carey and David R. Pogue of Carey, Scott, Douglas & Kessler filed the notice of hearing last month in Kanawha Circuit Court. Carey and Pogue previously filed a motion to dismiss and motion to stay discovery in the case. The hearing is scheduled for June 5 before Circuit Judge Charles King.
The case was filed in December by Del. Isaac Sponaugle (D-Pendleton). It is his third attempt to have a court find that Justice is violating the state Constitution by not living in the seat of the government.
Sponaugle claims that because Justice resides in his home in Lewisburg instead of in the Governor's Mansion in Charleston. He claims West Virginia code states that the governor, secretary of state, state superintendent of free schools, auditor, treasurer, attorney general and commissioner of agriculture must all live within the seat of the government.
Sponaugle claims Justice has not resided in the seat of the government for more than 30 days since he took office in January 2017.
"This is despite housing afforded to him at the West Virginia Governor's Mansion..." the writ states. "Respondent by his own public admissions has not and continues to reside in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, in lieu of Charleston, West Virginia."
In the petition, Sponaugle notes that he is seeking the answer to whether or not it is mandatory for the governor to reside at the seat of government during the terms of office.
Last September, Sponaugle filed the writ with the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. In November, the Supreme Court issued an order refusing the writ.
"Upon consideration and review, the Court is of the opinion that a rule should not be awarded, and the writ prayed for by the petitioner is hereby refused," the Supreme Court order stated.
Sponaugle also previously filed the lawsuit in Kanawha Circuit Court last June but had failed to provide the state the required 30 days notice before filing. It was then dismissed.
In that attempt, King asked how he would be able to compel the governor to live in Charleston.
Sponaugle claims Justice does not come to Charleston to work regularly and that members of the West Virginia Legislature have raised concerns over Justice's "chronic absenteeism" and its effect on the productivity of state government.
The first time the lawsuit was filed, Justice released a statement in which he said the petition was filled with falsehoods of which he would address each and everyone at the proper time.
"It’s a shame that Delegate Sponaugle has chosen to engage in a political stunt that has no purpose but to waste the valuable time and resources of the executive branch and the West Virginia court system.
"Delegate Sponaugle, a far-left politician, never brought this up when I was a Democrat, but now that an election year is upon us he chose to file this lawsuit to score cheap political points.
"Frankly, I don’t want to waste our people’s money, have people cook for me, do laundry, let me have party after party on the taxpayer’s dime and cater to my every whim. I’m here to serve, not to be served.”
Sponaugle did not return a request for comment.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 18-P-442