Solicitor General obtains W.Va. law license

By John O'Brien | May 24, 2013

CHARLES TOWN – Three months into his new career, West Virginia’s solicitor general is officially licensed to practice law in the state.

Lin, a Yale Law School graduate who also clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was the center of controversy earlier this year when it was revealed he did not have his law license in the state despite being hired by new state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

Lin was one of 46 individuals admitted to practice law in the state on May 15. In his three months without it, he could not sign briefs or participate in oral arguments.

“The Office of the Attorney General is pleased that this incredibly talented and experienced attorney is a member of the West Virginia Bar and our team,” said Beth Ryan, a spokesperson for Morrisey’s office.

“In the three short months since his arrival, Elbert has already contributed so much to the office and our state. It’s such a positive development to have someone of Elbert’s caliber engage in public service for West Virginia.”

During his time without a license, Lin’s job title was changed to senior assistant to the attorney general. His salary is $132,000.

Democrats in the House of Delegates objected to Lin’s hiring and lack of a license during their legislative session earlier this year. Del. Doug Reynolds and 10 co-sponsors introduced House Bill 2788 on March 1, which would have required attorneys hired by the State who have a salary exceeding $100,000 to have a license to practice law in the state at the time of the hire.

Morrisey called the bill childish and hyper-partisan.

“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 said in March.

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.”

The bill’s co-sponsors were all Democrats. They were Tiffany Lawrence, Stephen Skinner, Josh Stowers, Isaac Sponaugle, Doug Skaff, Barbara Evans Fleischauer, Nancy Peoples Guthrie, Denise Campbell, David Walker and Justin Marcum.

Reynolds defended the legislation in a Charleston Gazette article. He said 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.”

Lin has also worked at the U.S. Department of Justice, and his most recent job was at Wiley Rein of Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia.

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at

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