CHARLESTON – State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is calling a new bill that is in response to the controversy around one of his hires “childish” and “hyper-partisan.”
The proposed legislation, House Bill 2788, requires attorneys hired by the State of West Virginia who have a salary exceeding $100,000 to have a license to practice law in the state at the time of the hire.
The bill appears to be in response to the hiring of Elbert Lin as solicitor general. Lin does not have his license in West Virginia yet, and the process will take a few months. He is earning $132,000 per year.
Lin earned his law degree from Yale Law School and served as its law review editor and has also clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. He worked at the U.S. Department of Justice, and his most recent job was at Wiley Rein of Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia.
“Shame on Delegate Doug Reynolds and his 10 co-sponsors who introduced House Bill 2788 (on March 1). This is petty partisan politics at its worst and shows what certain delegates’ priorities are,” said Morrisey, a Republican who took office in January.
“This childish bill shows that some members of the House of Delegates are taking their lead directly from their peers in Congress by putting aside real issues of concern to focus on hyper-partisan bills.
“When the West Virginia Legislature should be dedicating its time on issues such as education reform and economic development, these delegates have introduced a bill that attempts to stop state offices and agencies, including the Attorney General’s Office, from hiring talented and well-qualified lawyers and professionals who will help our state save millions of dollars.”
Morrisey continued that Lin’s hiring was a major victory for the state – “Part of the reason West Virginia needs to attract such incredible legal talent is that we need to begin reducing the millions of dollars the state currently pays for outside counsel. With top-shelf advocates in-house, we can save millions of dollars on outside counsel fees and end the cronyism that has plagued our state for too long.”
Lin cannot sign a legal brief or participate in oral arguments without his West Virginia license. His job title has been changed to senior assistant to the attorney general.
The bill’s co-sponsors are all Democrats. They are Tiffany Lawrence, Stephen Skinner, Josh Stowers, Isaac Sponaugle, Doug Skaff, Barbara Evans Fleischauer, Nancy Peoples Guthrie, Denise Campbell, David Walker and Justin Marcum.
Reynolds told the Charleston Gazette that lawyers shouldn’t be hired by the State until they are ready to work in their full capacity.
"(They) shouldn't go on the state payroll until they can hit the ground running," he told the paper. “The people we hire for a job, they need to be able to do the job from day one.
"It affects all state agencies. We didn't do this just for the Attorney General's Office."
Morrisey said the bill shows blatant hostility toward out-of-state legal professionals who want to come to West Virginia.
“Shame on Delegate Reynolds for being the lead sponsor of this legislation. It just goes to show what level a desperate politician will stoop to. Voters in Cabell County didn’t send Delegate Reynolds to the Capitol to draft legislation that wastes valuable time and has questionable constitutionality,” Morrisey said.
He also had harsh words for a delegate from his home county of Jefferson.
“Shame on Delegate Tiffany Lawrence, who preaches bipartisanship in Jefferson County, yet acts like a liberal Democrat in Charleston. Jefferson County deserves better,” he said.
“Shame on Delegate Doug Skaff, a so-called bipartisan leader. West Virginians want their elected leaders to work for the betterment of the state, not to spend their time crafting unprecedented, arguable unconstitutional and blindly partisan bills. West Virginia deserves better and a more bipartisan approach to governing.”
From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org.