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Lawyer files intent to sue again over governor's residency

·2-min read
FILE - West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice speaks during the State of the State Address in the House Chambers of the West Virginia State Capitol Building in Charleston, W.Va., on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. Justice has agreed to live in the seat of state government in Charleston, ending a long-running challenge over his residency. A Kanawha County judge signed an order Monday, March 1, 2021, dismissing a 2018 lawsuit filed by a former state lawmaker. (AP Photo/Chris Jackson, file)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A lawyer and former lawmaker in West Virginia has filed notice that he again intends to sue Gov. Jim Justice over his residency.

Isaac Sponaugle sent Justice a 30-day intent to sue notice Thursday for the governor's alleged failure to comply with a March 1 settlement agreement to reside at the seat of government in Charleston, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.

“Jim Justice needs to decide what he wants to do with his time,” Sponaugle said. “He’s a part-time governor, part-time businessman, and part-time basketball coach. The only thing that he’s doing full-time is residing in Greenbrier County.”

Justice agreed in March to live in Charleston, ending a lawsuit Sponaugle filed in 2018 because the state constitution says the governor “shall reside at the seat of government."

At the time, Justice said through his attorney that he intended to reside in Charleston “consistent with the definition of ‘reside’ in the Supreme Court of Appeals’ opinion," according to the dismissal order signed by Senior Status Circuit Judge Dan O'Hanlon.

The court concluded in 2020 that “reside” is not a discretionary term, and determined that the constitutional definition of reside means “to live, primarily, at the seat of government and requires that the executive official’s principal place of physical presence is the seat of government for the duration of his or her term in office.”

Justice’s personal attorneys Mike Carey and Steve Ruby said in a statement Thursday that Sponaugle is “grasping for media attention by trying to revive this pointless suit.”

“The people of West Virginia know exactly how hard Governor Justice works and how much he’s accomplished for the state. They know he’s on the job for them every day, either in Charleston or out among the 99% of West Virginians who don’t live in the capital," the statement said.

It did not directly address Sponaugle’s assertion that Justice isn't abiding by terms of the March settlement, the newspaper reported.

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