Court Battles

Senate Democrats’ campaign arm sues for records related to Jim Justice’s schedule

Gov. Jim Justice speaks during an announcement for his campaign for U.S. Senate
AP Photo/Chris Jackson
Gov. Jim Justice speaks during an announcement for his campaign for U.S. Senate at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., on Thursday, April 27, 2023.

The Senate Democrats’ campaign arm has sued West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R), who is running to unseat Sen. Joe Manchin (D), for records related to his schedule after multiple requests for it. 

The lawsuit from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) filed Tuesday, which was first reported by Punchbowl News, states that Justice has refused to “produce the most basic records” from his time as governor — a list of official meetings for him and his senior staff. 

Diana Astiz, the research director for the DSCC, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request last month for copies of all scheduled official meetings that Justice, his chief of staff, his deputy chief of staff and his general counsel have had since January 2017, when the governor took office. 

But the lawsuit states that Justice’s office completely denied the request a week later, saying that it had located the documents requested but would not release them. It said the office cited exemptions to the state’s FOIA law that the DSCC believes do not apply. 

The lawsuit states that a records request in 2019 revealed that Justice “almost never” met with members of his Cabinet, is rarely present at the state capitol and mostly missed one of the “most critical” points of the year’s legislative session. 

“The Governor may understandably desire to avoid another round of similar criticism, but he is the chief executive of the State and has the duty to ensure that its laws are faithfully executed,” the lawsuit states. “His Office’s refusal to produce the records sought is an open violation of FOIA.” 

DSCC previously announced last week that it intended to sue after Justice’s general counsel blocked two FOIA requests. 

“Jim Justice cannot hide his work schedule — or lack thereof — from West Virginians, and this is an area which is sure to receive further scrutiny in his nasty primary and in a court of law,” DSCC spokesperson David Bergstein said in a release. 

The lawsuit comes as Justice is candidate for Senate, and the seat could be a prime pickup opportunity for Republicans in 2024. 

Manchin has not announced if he will run for another term. 

Roman Stauffer, campaign manager for Justice, slammed the lawsuit as politically motivated, saying in a statement that Democrats want to help Justice’s primary opponent, Rep. Alex Mooney (R), because they believe he would be easier for Manchin to defeat. 

“Governor Jim Justice is the frontrunner in this campaign for U.S. Senate, and the polling shows that he beats every other candidate,” Stauffer said. “Chuck Schumer and the Democrats are panicking and will do everything they can to prop up Alex Mooney, whom they know they can easily beat in the General Election.”

Tags Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee DSCC FOIA Jim Justice Jim Justice Joe Manchin records request

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