A court case that could play into next November’s Missouri U.S. Senate race has been delayed.
Daniel Richard Green, the circuit court judge hearing the lawsuit against Republican Attorney General and Senate candidate Josh Hawley was sick and could not preside over arguments scheduled for Thursday.
Jefferson City resident and former Cole County Democratic Party Chair Donna Mueller brought the lawsuit in November, alleging that Hawley is breaking the law by not living in the state capitol city – Jefferson City.
Missouri law states “the attorney general shall reside at the seat of government and keep his office in the Supreme Court building.” In court briefs filed in advance, the two sides have been debating the meaning of the word “resides”.
The attorney for Mueller, Gaylin Rich Carver, contends that the dictionary definition of “reside” is to “occupy a place as one’s legal “domicile”.
John Sauer, the state’s First Assistant and Solicitor, who’s representing Hawley in the suit, contends “residence” usually just means bodily presence as an inhabitant of a given place, and that “domicile” usually requires bodily presence plus an intention to make the place one’s home.
“A person thus may have more than one residence at a time, but only one domicile,” wrote Sauer. He argues the terms “residence” and “reside” have the same meaning, because residence is the noun form of reside.
At one point in his briefs, Sauer accuses Carver of lapsing into insult after failing to provide legal analysis. Sauer wrote that Carver was accusing the attorney general of lacking the language skills of an eighth grader, but in making the accusation, misspells the phrase “eighth grader”.
Hawley announced in February he was renting an apartment in Jefferson City, but claimed he hadn’t previously been breaking the law, because his home in Columbia was less than 30 miles away.
After Hawley voted in Boone County (location of Columbia) in an August special election, the Boone County Clerk launched an investigation after a resident complained the vote may have been illegal.
The clerk then announced in September that he believed Hawley properly and legally registered to vote in Boone County, where he owned a home.
Hawley’s Washington D.C. based attorney sent a letter to the clerk the same month, clarifying that the attorney general was renting an apartment in Jefferson City, and doing so in the spirit of attorney generals having a residence in the capital city.
With Judge Green out sick Thursday, the next date in Jefferson City resident Mueller’s lawsuit against Hawley has been set for January 8th. At that time, another court date will be set later in January for oral arguments.
Meanwhile, on the political front, Hawley remains the heavy favorite in the Republican primary next August, with the winner facing off against Democratic incumbent U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill the following November.
A spokesperson for McCaskill’s campaign, Meira Bernstein, accuses Hawley of skirting the law and using state money in the lawsuit.
“It is astonishing that as the elected official responsible for enforcing Missouri law, Josh Hawley has decided that the Missouri Constitution and state law do not apply to him,” said Bernstein. “Hawley’s decision to violate Missouri law — and to use taxpayer money to defend himself for a personal decision — makes him the worst type of politician: one that’s only out for himself.”
As noted above, Hawley is represented in the lawsuit by First Assistant and Solicitor John Sauer. In the court briefs filed for the case, Deputy Attorney General Michael C. Martinich-Sauer and Deputy Solicitor Joshua Divine are also listed as representing Hawley. All are state employees.
The attorney general’s Senatorial campaign office failed to respond when asked for comment for this story by Missourinet.