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Gov. Justice residency case settled in court

CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice agreed to “reside” in Charleston as required by the West Virginia Constitution in a settlement of a lawsuit brought by a former lawmaker.

According to a dismissal order issued Monday by Kanawha County Circuit Judge Daniel P. O’Hanlon, Justice agreed to “reside” in Charleston as defined by an opinion issued by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals last November.

In a Nov. 20, 2020, opinion, the Supreme Court denied a motion for a writ of prohibition sought by Justice attorneys Mike Carey and George Terwilliger after a Kanawha County judge ruled against a motion to dismiss a writ of mandamus case brought by former Pendleton County delegate Isaac Sponaugle asking the court to require Justice to follow the Constitution and live in Charleston.

In that opinion, Chief Justice Evan Jenkins defined “reside” as “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 of office.”

“(Justice) has represented through counsel that he intends to ‘reside’ in Charleston consistent with the definition of ‘reside’ in the Supreme Court of Appeals’ opinion,” O’Hanlon said in his dismissal order. “The parties agree that (Justice’s) voluntary agreement to reside at the seat of government within the meaning of the Constitution renders this case moot and that the case should be dismissed.”

In dismissing the writ of mandamus, Justice also agreed to pay $65,000 to Sponaugle for his attorney fees and costs.

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