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Judge rejects suit over attorney general's residency

Judge rejects suit over attorney general's residency

January 11th, 2018 by Bob Watson in Local News

In this Sept. 22, 2015 file photo, Judge Dan Green is seen presiding in Cole County court.

Photo by News Tribune file photo

Donna Mueller is not the proper petitioner to file a lawsuit over where Attorney General Josh Hawley lives, Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green said Wednesday afternoon at the end of a 30-minute hearing.

Green said he would issue a formal written ruling later but indicated Mueller did not have the legal standing to bring the case.

Hawley and his family live on Missouri 163 just west of U.S. 63, between Ashland and Columbia.

Jefferson City attorney Gaylin Rich Carver filed Mueller's lawsuit in mid-November, arguing Hawley is violating a state law that says: "The attorney general shall reside at the seat of government and keep his office in the supreme court building."

Missouri's Constitution defines the seat of government as Jefferson City.

Carver told Green on Wednesday part of her argument is based on the Boone County clerk's confirmation Hawley voted from the Missouri 163 address last year.

"No other attorney general has voted in any other jurisdiction" than Cole County, she explained.

After the issue first was raised a year ago, Hawley said he also had rented an apartment in Jefferson City which, Deputy Chief of Staff Loree Ann Paradise told the News Tribune, was acquired "as a matter of custom, and his permanent residence (in Boone County) is minutes away, enabling him to be at the capital on even the shortest notice."

As he did in writing last month, Solicitor D. John Sauer — Hawley's first assistant — told Green on Wednesday that Mueller's lawsuit incorrectly uses "reside" to mean "domicile," when a person may have more than one residence and still have only one domicile.

Hawley, Sauer said, "has maintained his family home in Boone County and also has a residence" in Jefferson City.

Sauer noted even Hawley's predecessor, Democrat Chris Koster, kept his family's home in St. Louis while also renting a Jefferson City apartment.

Carver reminded Green the language in the state law about the attorney general's office isn't used in the separate laws describing the other statewide officeholders.

"Nowhere is there a residency requirement," she noted — not even with the governor, where the state provides the mansion but doesn't have a law requiring the governor to live in it.

Lawmakers, she said, had a very specific intent with the residency language found only in the attorney general's statute — that "the attorney general was to live at the seat of government."

Sauer said Green should consider five different arguments for dismissing the case — including rulings made in other cases in Missouri and other states.

Carver said those other cases didn't raise the same issues as her lawsuit.

But, the judge said he didn't need to reach decisions in all those points; Mueller's standing was enough.

Carver argued Mueller "is a citizen of Jefferson City and Cole County and a voter for many years. If she doesn't have standing, who would?"

She told the News Tribune she would have to see Green's written ruling before deciding if she can appeal it.