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Bill would require law license for some jobs

Mar. 06, 2013 @ 11:30 PM

CHARLESTON -- Legislation introduced in the House of Delegates requires state government attorneys who make more than $100,000 a year to have their law license in West Virginia when they are hired.

Delegate Doug Reynolds, D-Cabell, introduced the bill (HB 2788) in the wake of reports that Attorney General Patrick Morrisey hired Elbert Lin in February to be his solicitor general, even though Lin won't receive his license to practice law in West Virginia for a few more months. Lin's salary is $132,000.

Although the legislation only targets attorneys, Reynolds said it's important that all state government employees in highly paid positions are able to perform their duties from the first day they are hired.

Morrisey, a Republican, has gone on the defense, saying the legislation from Reynolds and 10 other Democratic co-sponsors is "petty partisan politics at its worst and shows what certain delegates' priorities are."

"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 a prepared release.

The newly elected attorney general added that Lin is a former clerk for the U.S. Supreme Court, a former clerk for a U.S. Court of Appeals judge and a trial attorney for the Department of Justice.

"This bill shows blatant hostility toward any highly qualified legal professional who wants to come to West Virginia to practice," he said.

Reynolds said that Lin appears to be a highly qualified individual.

"That's not the argument," Reynolds said. "There just seems to be a lenient set of standards in terms of licensing for employees in higher-paid positions in state government.

"I can't imagine other positions, whether it be a police officer or a nurse, where this would ever happen."

The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

Follow H-D reporter Bryan Chambers on Facebook or Twitter @BryanChambersHD.

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