West Virginia Record

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Justice brings in new counsel in residency case

State Court

By Kyla Asbury | Aug 9, 2019

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Gov. Jim Justice

CHARLESTON – Court documents show that Gov. Jim Justice has hired a former U.S. attorney to represent him in a lawsuit filed by Del. Isaac Sponaugle (D-Pendleton) regarding Justice's residency.

A motion to bring in George J. Terwilliger III was filed July 29. Terwilliger was a U.S. deputy attorney general in the 1990s, as well as the U.S. attorney for Vermont. He is now a partner at McGuireWoods in Washington, D.C.

Last month, Kanawha Circuit Judge Charles E. King Jr. denied a motion to dismiss the case. King ordered for Justice to respond to discovery requests within 30 days.

Del. Isaac Sponaugle (D-Pendleton)

"This court believes that the allegations, viewed in the light most favorable to the petitioner, are sufficiently pled and could provide theories under which relief could be granted," King wrote in the order.

The case was filed in December by Sponaugle. 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.

“I’m just a little old country lawyer from Pendleton County, and I’m taking on the most powerful man in state government, the state’s only billionaire; a former U.S. attorney who successfully prosecuted Arch Moore; and now, a former U.S. attorney general,” Sponaugle told the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Justice resides in his home in Lewisburg instead of in the Governor's Mansion in Charleston. Sponaugle 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. He previously filed the lawsuit in Kanawha Circuit Court last summer. That action was dismissed because Sponaugle failed to provide the required 30 days' notice of suing a government agency.

Sponaugle is representing himself.

Justice is also represented by Michael W. Carey and David R. Pogue of Carey, Scott, Douglas  & Kessler in Charleston.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 18-P-442

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