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What They’re Saying: DSCC “Seize[s] On Reports Jim Justice ‘Largely Absent,’” Will File Lawsuit To Obtain Official Schedule And Calendar

New reporting details that lawyers for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) sent Jim Justice’s office a litigation hold and notice that the DSCC is preparing to sue to demand the release of records pertaining to the Governor’s official schedule or official calendar from January 2017 to present. The letter comes after Justice’s office repeatedly failed to comply with public records requests for his official schedule or official calendar.

Here’s what they’re saying:

Washington Examiner: Senate Democrats seize on reports Jim Justice ‘largely absent’ as West Virginia governor
By Ryan King
May 15, 2023

  • Democrats are setting their sights on Gov. Jim Justice’s (R-WV) official calendar as his campaign for the United States Senate ramps up.
  • On Monday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sent a letter to his team stating its intention to sue for the two-term governor’s schedule. Back in March, the DSCC issued a records request, but his office rejected it.
  • “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,” DSCC spokesman David Bergstein said in a statement. 
  • The DSCC flagged multiple reports about the governor keeping a light schedule, including a 2019 Associated Press piece claiming that he was “largely absent” from the job. 

NBC News: Senate Dem campaign arm plans lawsuit to get Jim Justice records
By Bridget Bowman 
May 15, 2023 

  • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is planning to file a lawsuit to obtain West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s official schedule and calendar, according to a letter the committee is sending the Republican governor’s general counsel on Monday, shared first with NBC News.
  • The Justice administration denied the records request, with his general counsel J. Berkeley Bentley writing that the schedules contain official and personal business and the calendars and schedules are drafts that are continuously revised. The DSCC refiled the document request, which Bentley denied again.
  • The DSCC is taking the standoff a step further on Monday, notifying Justice’s administration that it is moving forward with a lawsuit.
  • This is not the first time that Justice has been engaged in a fight over his schedules. In 2019, the Associated Press obtained copies of Justice’s calendar through a records request and found that his schedules “mostly show him at photo ops or simply unaccounted for.”
  • Justice responded to the AP report by saying in a statement that the calendar did not accurately reflect his work as governor, adding that it “can sometimes change by the minute and because of this, there are times where all the good work we’re doing never makes it onto the calendar.”

Fox News: Senate Dems threaten to sue W.Va. Gov. Jim Justice for refusing to release his work schedule
By Elizabeth Elkind
May 15, 2023

  • The Senate Democrats’ campaign arm is threatening to sue West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice after he refused to give them key records from his gubernatorial tenure, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) wrote in a letter on Monday.
  • A statement from the DSCC said its lawyers sent Justice a “litigation hold and notice that the DSCC is preparing to sue” to demand release of those records related to Justice’s scheduled official meetings as governor.

  • The DSCC cited news stories citing an “ongoing scandal over his work schedule,” following an Associated Press story that said Justice was “largely absent” in his job.
  • The DSCC filed two separate Freedom of Information Act requests (FOIA) in recent weeks seeking information on Justice’s official schedule. Both were denied.

  • According to the note, the DSCC sought “copies of records containing scheduled official meetings involving Governor Jim Justice, his Chief of Staff, his Deputy Chief of Staff, and his General Counsel, from January 2017 to the present.”
  • Justice’s gubernatorial office “denied the request in full.” Lopez’s letter accused Justice’s grounds for denial of having no merit. “Citing out of state precedent, you contend that the information is maintained only in draft format and is frequently revised, but there is no ‘draft’ exception in the West Virginia FOIA,” it said.
  • The letter warned Justice’s office that the DSCC would soon “commence a proceeding” to “enforce” its “obligations” to produce his work schedule, and demanded that Bentley preserve the relevant records.
  • “Your response implicitly acknowledges that documents responsive to the April 13 request exist. Please ensure that they are maintained, in full, until that proceeding is resolved,” the DSCC said.

  • Before Justice can face Manchin, he must first survive what’s expected to be a heated primary race against U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va.


The Hill: Senate Democratic campaign arm says it will sue for Jim Justice’s official schedules
By Al Weaver
May 15, 2023

  • The Senate Democratic campaign arm is preparing to file a lawsuit in an attempt to obtain West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) official schedule, according to a letter sent to the governor’s general counsel. 
  • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) announced the suit after it twice filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) records requests with the state in an attempt to access the calendars of Justice, his chief of staff, his deputy chief of staff and his general counsel in March shortly before he announced his Senate campaign.

  • J. Berkeley Bentley, Justice’s general counsel, blocked those requests both times, saying that none of the schedules were maintained “solely for official business” and likened them to drafts of schedules. 
  • That prompted the DSCC to file a lawsuit in order to compel the governor’s office to release the schedules under the state’s FOIA law. DSCC counsel Jacquelyn Lopez argued that Bentley’s argument doesn’t hold weight and is not a valid exception to West Virginia FOIA law.

National Journal: WEST VIRGINIA: DSCC To File Lawsuit For Jim Justice’s Schedule, Calendar
By Kirk A. Bado and Hannah Thacker
May 15, 2023

  • The DSCC is planning to file a lawsuit to obtain Gov. Jim Justice’s (R) “official schedule and calendar, according to a letter the committee is sending the Republican governor’s general counsel on Monday, shared first with NBC News.”
  • Previously, the DSCC filed a Freedom of Information Act request to receive Justice’s “official schedule and calendar and for similar records related to his chief of staff, deputy chief of staff and general counsel in late March, shortly before Justice launched a run for Senate.” The Justice administration denied the request.

See also: DSCC Sends Jim Justice Litigation Hold Over Refusal to Release Work Schedule.

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