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Commissioner appointed to aid collection against W.Va. governor's coal company

A federal judge appointed a special commissioner to help an insurance company collect a judgment that has gone unpaid by a coal company run by the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice.

National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh Pa. sought the court's assistance in collecting a $559,286 judgment against Southern Coal Corp. along with $196,645 in prejudgment interest, an unspecified amount of post-judgment interest and attorney fees. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia granted the request Jan. 2, appointing U.S. Magistrate Judge Dwane Tinsley to conduct proceedings to enforce the judgment against Southern Coal.

The appointment was made the same day a judge approved a U.S. Attorney's request to depose employees of another Justice company, Justice Energy Co Inc., over financial information related to Justice Energy's ability to pay a $1.2 million court-imposed sanction.

According to the Jan. 2 filing signed by U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin, National Union has taken numerous steps to enforce the judgment registered with the court in March 2018, but "no portion of the judgment has been satisfied to date."

Banks that were served with writs seeking to collect on Southern's debts indicated the accounts were closed or have a zero balance, a November 2018 filing from National Union said. Southern has responded to requests from the insurer with "general, boilerplate objections, evasive, nonresponsive answers to interrogatories and failed to produce a single document requested," the filing continued. Meanwhile, National Union said, attempts to communicate with Southern's counsel have gone unanswered.

The order directs the clerk to issue a summons to Southern that will require company representatives to appear before Tinsley.