Justice has a court date in Maryland over $1.5 million debt case

FREDERICK, Md. — The Frederick County Courthouse in Maryland is a lovely, modern brick building with a plaza that includes a tribute to John Hanson, president of the nation’s original government under the Articles of Confederation.

Gov. Jim Justice

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice might find it interesting when he appears before a hearing examiner at 1 p.m. July 15.

Justice was ordered to make the appearance as part of a lingering court case involving debt of $1,479,791.13.

The governor is supposed to appear in front of Hearing Examiner Karen Krask to answer questions under oath about payment on a judgement that was issued back on Dec. 7, 2017.

The case has stopped and started in the Maryland court system for two years while Justice was operating as the chief executive of West Virginia.

Although the court action is in a neighboring state, its trail leads to the governor’s home in Greenbrier County.

A notice of foreign judgment was filed in April with the Greenbrier Circuit Clerk as part of the effort to collect.

The case is also one of several where local authorities are being directed to go after the governor’s personal property for overdue debts.

In one, Siemens Financial is trying to collect on a debt of almost $4 million, personally guaranteed by Justice, in New Jersey. In another, the Logan County Sheriff has issued notification of an auction of Justice-owned stocks in a $160,000 debt case.

Justice, asked this past week about his companies’ financial situation, said it is improving.

“Our businesses are doing better right now than they have done for the last probably six years, way better,” Justice said.

He also said the public shouldn’t worry.

“At the end of the day I would say to you one thing, don’t worry about my stuff,” Justice said. “Don’t worry about my businesses. Don’t worry about a thing in the world except this state. That’s what you should be focused on is this state. Because things are going to be fine in my business world.”

The Maryland case started two years ago when Middletown Valley Bank filed a lawsuit over outstanding debt.

In 2016, the company had extended four separate loans for Justice Farms of North Carolina, one of about 90 companies owned by Justice and his family. Justice signed documents personally guaranteeing the loans.

But it was only a few months, April 2017, until the loans went into default. By then, Justice had been inaugurated as governor of West Virginia.

The bank sent threatening letters that April 13 and June 6: “the lender notified the obligors that it had exercised its right to declare all amounts outstanding under the loan documents to be immediately due and payable and demanded immediate payment thereof.”

The lawsuit that was filed August 25, 2017, asked for the amount that was due at the time, plus daily accruing interest.

Months later, Dec. 7, 2017, the court issued four judgments against Justice.

But the drama to collect continued.

On April 16, 2018, the collection effort started in Greenbrier County with the notice of foreign judgment.

On Nov. 2, 2018, an order went out from the court for Justice to make a personal appearance, just like the one he currently faces.

Just weeks after that, Nov. 30, 2018, the Greenbrier County Sheriff received a command to go after the debt through Justice’s personal property.

That filed document includes a note scrawled on it: “Please note, I have been contacted by attorneys representing Middletown Valley Bank. I have been instructed to return the within writ of execution due to an agreement made.”

Greenbrier County Sheriff Bruce Sloan alluded to that agreement when contacted last week about the debt collection.

“Once that was issued and we received it, Mr. Justice and his attorneys began negotiations and came to an agreement,” Sloan said.

Sure enough, the case was closed in Maryland.

The trouble is, it picked back up again.

Late last year into early this year, efforts resumed in the court system to garnish property owned by Justice.

This past Jan. 7, the sheriff received another writ of execution go to after Justice’s personal property. Orders in the court system also went after banks where Justice had accounts.

One of those, for example, was Premiere Bank, which was believed to hold $133,852.23.  On April 18, the court ordered the money — plus any more that had accumulated — to be turned over.

By April 25, the lawyer for Middletown Valley Bank asked for Justice to appear personally in court.

The lawyer for the bank also requested that Justice “bring all bank books, papers, books and records relating to the personal estates and business transactions of the judgment debtor to such examination.”

All that led to the upcoming hearing where the governor of West Virginia is to appear personally to explain his finances.

The order filed April 25 offers a warning to the governor.

He is warned “that if he fails to appear, he may be held in contempt of court.”

Justice, speaking to reporters last week, said the public shouldn’t worry about such matters.

“You need to quit worrying about my stuff,” he said, “and the drama.”

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