Justice To Appoint Successor For Judge In Residency Case

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice gives a speech during a Department of Tourism conference Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018, at the Morgantown Event Center.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is preparing to appoint a judge who would be in line to hear the residency lawsuit filed against him.

Justice will decide who succeeds longtime Kanawha County Circuit Judge Charles King, who had been hearing the case but died in December, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.

Applications for the position are being accepted through Jan. 27, and interviews will be held in Charleston on Feb. 11, according to a statement from the Governor’s Office. It wasn’t clear when the decision would be announced.

The residency case would fall to the appointee unless that person decides not to hear it, the newspaper reported. State Code does not require appointed circuit court judges to recuse themselves from cases with a possible conflict of interest. If the appointee decides not hear the case, it would go to another Kanawha circuit judge.

The residency lawsuit claims the governor is violating the state constitution by not living in Charleston. The governor’s defense counsel has said the courts shouldn’t dictate where the governor lives.

The West Virginia Supreme Court declined in November to dismiss the lawsuit and sent it back to circuit court.

Isaac Sponaugle, the Pendleton County attorney who filed the lawsuit, said Tuesday he expects the case to proceed normally.

“I usually give judges the benefit of the doubt. I just feel that’s proper,” he said. “They can take a look at it and make a determination for themselves, what they feel like they’ve got to do.”

An attorney for Justice’s counsel did not return the newspaper’s request for comment.