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Judge OKs attorney general to live outside Jefferson City

Judge OKs attorney general to live outside Jefferson City

June 20th, 2018 by Bob Watson in News

In this June 23, 2017 photo, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley speaks during a graduation ceremony for state troopers at Highway Patrol headquarters in Jefferson City. (Photograph courtesy of Brenda Campbell/Missouri Highway Patrol)

On Jan. 11, Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green told Donna Mueller she was "not the proper petitioner to file a lawsuit over where Attorney General Josh Hawley lives."

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Mueller sued in November 2017, arguing Hawley wasn't obeying the 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.

And — although Hawley has rented an apartment in Jefferson City — he and his family continue to live in their long-time family home in Boone County, on Missouri 163 just west of U.S. 63, between Ashland and Columbia, with a Columbia address.

State law sets a residency requirement only for the attorney general — not for any of the other five statewide elected officials.

Lawmakers this year were asked to remove that requirement, but the legislation didn't pass.

Last week, Green issued his written ruling in Mueller's case, noting she had asked the court to require "the duly elected attorney general for the state of Missouri to establish residence in Jefferson City, Missouri, or resign from said office."

But, he said in a four-page judgment, Green agreed with Hawley's argument that Mueller really was challenging "the validity of the attorney general's service, which cannot be done in an action by a private relator."

The judge noted state law and the Constitution limit the ways an elected official can be removed from office — the request at the heart of Mueller's suit.

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Quoting a 2003 Missouri Court of Appeals ruling, Green wrote: "The proper method for challenging the constitutional validity of an officer's service is through a quo warranto action."

But that legal procedure can be launched only by the attorney general or a county prosecutor — and Mueller, "as a private party, has no authority to initiate an action seeking to remove the attorney general from office."

But, Green wrote, the attorney general's case is even more complicated.

"Even if (Mueller) has the consent of a government attorney to proceed against the attorney general in quo warranto," he said, "the Missouri Constitution would bar any request for the removal of the attorney general from office (because) the single method provided in the Constitution for removal from office of statewide elective executive officials is impeachment."

Therefore, Green said, "The Court has no constitutional authority to order the attorney general to resign from office."

He dismissed the case "with prejudice" — meaning it can't be filed again.

Mueller's attorney, Gaylin Rich Carver, said Green's ruling can be appealed, and they're considering their options.