Longtime lender to governor’s companies says it will move to dismiss or transfer suit

CHARLESTON — Lawyers for Carter Bank & Trust say they will move to dismiss or transfer a $1 billion lawsuit filed by the network of businesses owned by Gov. Jim Justice and his family.

The Justice companies filed a federal suit last week, contending Carter Bank & Trust of Martinsville, Va., has engaged in unfair business practices, kneecapping the Justice family businesses. The lawsuit was filed in Beckley in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

Carter Bank’s lawyers countered in their own filing Tuesday that the Justice company claims are virtually identical to a 2021 lawsuit that was dismissed. More importantly, Carter Bank’s lawyers contend, the Justice companies filed the current suit in the wrong court.

The lawyers for Carter Bank wrote, “the Court needs to consider and address whether venue is proper in this Court and whether the Court can exercise personal jurisdiction over all the Defendants in this matter.”

Carter’s lawyers wrote that over a six-year period, the Justices signed about 350 documents, including promissory notes, guaranties, loan agreements, releases and other contracts — each containing a forum-selection clause designating the federal court in the Western District of Virginia or the state court in Martinsville, Va. — as the mandatory venues for any disputes between parties.

Furthermore, the officers of Carter Bank, who are named as defendants, generally live in western Virginia.

Lawyers for the Justice businesses wrote in the lawsuit that the southern West Virginia venue is proper because it’s the location of much of the collateral in dispute between the companies and the bank.

Lawyers for Gov. Justice, first lady Cathy Justice, son Jay Justice and 15 of the Justice family companies filed their lawsuit accusing Carter of unfair business practices last week.

That lawsuit came just as the Justice companies had been scheduled for a hearing in a local courtroom in Martinsville over $300 million in confessed judgment claims by Carter Bank. This past April, after more than $300 million in loans came due, Carter filed about a dozen claims to collect.

Justice contends Carter Bank made its lending philosophy stricter — and unfair — after a long and mutually beneficial business relationship.

The Justice companies filed federal suit against Carter two years ago on largely the same grounds, alleging that following the death of founder Worth Carter the new officials in charge of the bank instituted more rigid financial practices and transformed into a “determined, self-proclaimed adversary.”

Tuesday’s filing by Carter Bank takes note of similarities between the prior lawsuit and the latest one, calling it “a reprise.”

“Many of the allegations in the instant action are lifted whole cloth from Justice 1, and the causes of the current action are slimmed down versions of those in Justice 1 — with the notable addition of Plaintiffs’ bold request that this Court declare Virginia’s long-standing statutory confession of judgment procedures to be unconstitutional,” wrote the lawyers for Carter.