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Residence: Definition up to constitution, not court

Definition up to constitution, not court

It all comes down to what the meaning of the word “reside” is, it seems. At least, that is one of the arguments made to the West Virginia Supreme Court by a lawyer for Gov. Jim Justice.

High court justices have been stuck with a tough problem — deciding how much of his time Justice must spend in Charleston. The state constitution requires that he and certain other officials “shall reside at the seat of government.”

But Justice spends much of his time at home in Lewisburg, and a legislator has sued him over that. The governor insists modern technology allows him to effectively work from Lewisburg, and that he is in Charleston when he needs to be.

Justices heard arguments in the case last week. “Reside has a very, very broad meaning,” the governor’s lawyer argued. He added that he “really cannot believe that (the courts should) get into telling the governor where he should sleep.”

But the residence requirement — whatever it means — is not an invention of the courts. It is spelled out in the state constitution. There is little guessing the intent of the wording.

Perhaps the constitution should be amended. That is not a question for the high court, however. As unenviable as their situation is, justices have no option but to base their ruling on the constitution as it exists.

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