The governor has asked the state Supreme Court to consider whether a lawsuit filed against him can force him to live in Charleston.
Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, filed the lawsuit last summer as a private citizen, alleging Gov. Jim Justice has failed to live at “the seat of government” as state law and the state Constitution requires.
Although Justice has said publicly he resides at his home in Lewisburg, he has defended himself in court arguing that “residency” is too nebulous a concept for a court to enforce, and a court telling Justice how to govern amounts to a violation of the separation of powers between the judicial and legislative branches.
The suit has turned into a protracted legal battle, with the governor retaining a former acting U.S. attorney general and the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia for his legal team.
The governor’s lawyers are essentially asking the Supreme Court to answer two questions to offer guidance to the circuit court:
- Does the separation of powers clause in the state Constitution prohibit a court from forcing Justice to live at the seat of government?
- Is “reside” too vague a word to legally define and too convoluted to enforce in practice?
Justice’s legal team requested oral arguments before the court.