In mid-August, the high school principal released a statement to the news media explaining why, after interviewing all the candidates, “Coach James Justice was the clear choice.” The letter highlighted his experience and success, saying that people who had played for him “expressed their amazement at a man who works tirelessly, loves West Virginia, loves all children and embraces all players, regardless of their basketball talent.”
Meanwhile, Mr Justice’s lawyer sent a letter to the inspector warning of “legal action” if the board were to deny him the position despite qualifications that “rise above the other applicants”.
But at two school board meetings, several parents and residents, as well as a boys’ team player whose father was a candidate for the coaching job, spoke out against Mr Justice’s appointment, saying they wanted someone who could give the team full attention. Some wondered how the governor could spend his time on two teams and a state gripped by Covid-19, and expressed dissatisfaction with the apparent answer: assistant coaches.
On August 23, the board voted 3-2 to dismiss Mr Justice.
“Everyone would feel a certain amount of emptiness,” the governor said remorsefully of the decision of the board of directors, at the end of a press conference on the state’s Covid-19 crisis. He had coached at the school for more than two dozen seasons, he said, achieving “incredible success.” “There’s no doubt about it,” he went on, “this is the worst of the worst from the children’s point of view.”
At the next board meeting, in mid-September, a group of people showed up to commend Mr. Justice, read statements of support for the governor and express bewilderment at why the board had not elected him. That same day, Mr Justice’s lawyer filed the formal complaint.
The complaint, which listed Mr Justice’s job title as “Girls Basketball Coach,” argued that “failure to select a candidate who is by far the most qualified—whether out of personal zeal, political opposition, or any other reason— random and erratic.” The governor sued the county school board.
An unusual week passed. The governor announced the winners in the “Do it for Babydog” vaccination lottery, the number of known coronavirus infections in the state reached new highs and school administrators consulted with their legal counsel. The attorney who filed a lawsuit over the governor’s unconstitutional residence in Greenbrier announced that he intended to file another lawsuit. To some, it was both surprising and predictable that it had gone this far.