Government & Politics

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley says he’s not violating law by living outside Jefferson City

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley

Attorney General Josh Hawley is pointing to legal analysis he says proves he is not violating state law by living in Columbia instead of Jefferson City.

On Monday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Hawley lives on the south edge of Boone County, about 20 miles north of the state Capitol, despite a law that says the attorney general “shall reside at the seat of government and keep his office in the Supreme Court building.”

The state’s constitution designates Jefferson City as the seat of government. That led legislative Democrats to complain that Hawley, a first-term Republican, is violating state law and must either resign from office or move to Jefferson City.

“Under state law, Josh Hawley can reside in Columbia or he can be Missouri attorney general, but he can’t do both,” said state Rep. Gina Mitten, a St. Louis Democrat. “If he wants to be attorney general then he must comply with state law by moving his residence to Jefferson City. But if he wants to live in Columbia, then he needs to resign his office. Unilaterally declaring that state law doesn’t mean what it says just won’t cut it.”

On Tuesday, Hawley’s office released a legal analysis by his deputy attorney general, Michael Martinich-Sauter, that concluded Hawley is in compliance with state law because he lives within an “ordinary commuting distance” from the Capitol.

The purpose of the law, Martinich-Sauter wrote, was to ensure the attorney general was present in Jefferson City to conduct state business. By living close enough to commute to the office every day, he wrote, Hawley “plainly satisfies that requirement.”

Ryan Cross, Hawley’s communications director, said the issue never surfaced with previous attorneys general because Hawley is the first attorney general in modern history who already lived near the Capitol before he was elected.

“He lives a brief commute from the Supreme Court building,” Cross said. “His office is in the Supreme Court building. He’s in compliance.”

Jason Hancock: 573-634-3565, @J_Hancock