By Brittany Patterson
January 4, 2019 - A federal judge today ruled that a coal company controlled by West Virginia Governor Jim Justice’s family must turn over financial information and make its employees available for questioning.
U.S. District Judge Irene Berger granted a motion submitted last month by U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart seeking additional information and the ability to depose Justice Energy Co. employees.
James C. Justice III, left, watches his father’s inauguration as governor. He has assumed control of some Justice family companies.
Photo by Office of the WV Governor
Federal prosecutors are seeking more information on the ability of the coal company to pay a $1.23 million court fine. They are asking for a list of all real estate, bank accounts, vehicles and other financial information.
Justice Energy, a company now run by Gov. Justice’s children James C. Justice III and Jillean Justice, was slapped with the fine after repeatedly failing to pay Virginia-based James River Equipment $150,000 for mining equipment, service and parts. The company sued in 2013 and won.
Two years after being ordered to pay the debt, and after repeatedly failing to show up for court hearings, Berger held Justice Energy in contempt of court, ordering the company to pay $30,000 per day.
In September, Justice Energy lost an appeal of the civil contempt fines.
According to the request granted Wednesday, Stuart said Justice Energy may not be able to pay the fine, based on conversations he had with the company’s attorneys. But he said he needs more information.
The judge's order gives Justice Energy until Jan. 25 to provide all requested financial information and requires the firm to make employees available for depositions by mid-Feburary.
An attorney for the Justice family companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A review of court documents last year by the Ohio Valley ReSource found at least five cases in which judges ruled that Justice family companies failed to pay suppliers for goods or services. When compelled by courts to pay, the companies either refused or failed to meet agreed upon payments.
In all five cases the courts authorized U.S. marshals to seize assets from the Justice family companies’ bank accounts to recover the debts. However, in some cases, officials discovered the bank accounts were empty or closed.