CHARLESTON — A hearing on Wednesday stayed discovery in the case against Gov. Jim Justice over where he resides.
The governor's general counsel, Brian Abraham, said the hearing was held Aug. 21. The case is being handled by Justice's attorney's Mike Carey and George J. Terwilliger III.
"I've been advised that the court ruled that it would either grant the request of the governor to certify questions to the Supreme Court or, in the alternative, the court would issue an order with a more definitive rationale as to why it denied the motion to dismiss," Abraham said in an interview with The West Virginia Record. "In addition to that, the court placed a stay on discovery until one of those two events happens."
Last month, Kanawha Circuit Judge Charles E. King Jr. denied a motion to dismiss in the case. He also ordered for Justice to respond to discovery requests within 30 days and to file an answer to the petition for writ of mandamus within 10 days.
"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 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, an attorney, 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. 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.
Sponaugle and Carey did not respond to requests for comment.
Kanawha Circuit Court Case number: 18-P-442