Does a Governor Have to Live in the State Capital? A West Virginia Lawsuit Says Yes.

August 22, 2019 AT 7:44 AM

By Associated Press

Can a governor be forced to live in the state capital? A persistent lawsuit seeking to do just that with West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice was back in a courtroom Wednesday.

The Republican billionaire has frequently been criticized by members of both major parties for being absent from the Charleston statehouse as his business empire of more than 100 companies bogs down in litigation.

But perhaps the most forceful condemnation has come from a Democratic lawmaker whose lawsuits have accused Justice of violating a passage of the state Constitution that says the governor "shall reside at the seat of government."

The result has been a legal back-and-forth centered on the definition of the word "reside." There are also issues on the authority — and even the ability — of the courts to chaperone the whereabouts of the state's chief executive.

Wednesday's hearing rehashed some of those questions, including these previously posed by the governor's lawyers: "Is he 'residing' in Charleston if he sleeps there but departs in the morning and spends his waking hours elsewhere? Conversely, is he 'residing' in Charleston if he spends some portion of his waking hours there but sleeps elsewhere?"

After a short discussion, a circuit court judge extended the case by asking for more documents from Justice's legal team and Del. Isaac Sponaugle, who filed the suit.

Justice, whose estimated net worth totals about $1.5 billion, has said the case "is a total waste of time." His general counsel, Brian Abraham, issued a statement Wednesday echoing the same thoughts.

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