When Patrick Morrisey became attorney general of West Virginia in 2013, he was the first Republican to hold that office since 1933. A lot of Democrats and trial lawyers who had benefited from the gravy train established by Morrisey’s predecessors suddenly found themselves without a patron. So instead of finding honest work, they launched a mudslinging campaign to discredit and undermine Morrisey’s office.
Their latest plan is to pass legislation designed to cripple Morrisey’s office by disqualifying him from an enormous number of cases and basically prohibiting him from getting involved in litigation that challenges overreach by federal agencies like the EPA. Morrisey’s opponents have apparently concluded that if he won’t go along in treating the AG’s office as the servant of a corrupt patronage system, then the best course is to gut his office and distribute its authority to more “reliable“ lawyers.
Fortunately, attorneys general from both parties are coming to Morrisey’s defense against this offensive and unprecedented legislation. According to a story in the Parkersburg News and Sentinel:
In the continuing debate over HB 4490, the National Association of Attorneys General, along with a bipartisan group of attorneys general representing 36 states, districts and territories, sent a letter to the leadership of the West Virginia Legislature Friday outlining its concerns on the bill. . . .
“We are not aware of any statute that imposes such a broadly sweeping prohibition on an attorney general’s office-at the state or federal levels,” the attorneys general wrote to leaders of the West Virginia Senate and House of Delegates. “Nor are we aware of any state’s high court – which traditionally regulates the practice of law – having imposed such a principle of disqualification either through rules of practice or judicial opinion. The absence of such a prohibition is unsurprising, as it would plainly discourage experienced attorneys from seeking the office of attorney general.