Morrisey assures his office will not support governmental overreach; Justice rebukes his statement


CHARLESTON— Attorney General Patrick Morrisey shared the following statement to Facebook on Wednesday:

“Governor Justice just said that he does not ‘have the right to legislate or deem criminal charges on people.’

“We agree and elaborate further on this issue. As your Attorney General, we speak for the state on criminal matters at the appellate level and handle all criminal appeals at the WV Supreme Court and in the federal courts. We also speak for the legal interests of the people of West Virginia.

“During this pandemic, I will continue to ensure that any efforts to use the criminal code for any purpose are not applied in an arbitrary, improper, or heavy handed manner. Let’s be clear: no one is going to send people to jail and that simply should not be occurring with respect to the Governor’s executive orders.

“As many of you know, I weighed in against going after the barbershop owner in Berkeley County because it represented overreach. We will continue to weigh in similarly if such a fact pattern arises again.

“Significantly, our office will utilize its criminal appellate enforcement discretion to ensure that no one impinges upon our constitutionally protected freedoms.

“This is a serious virus and everyone must do their part to protect the public.

“Socially distance, wear coverings, keep good hygiene, minimize personal contact, and stay away from immunocompromised individuals, who may be particularly susceptible to the virus.

“We cannot and must not shut down our state — we must protect the public health while staying open.

“Act responsibly and know we will use our constitutional authority to protect your freedoms and the due process you are afforded to the fullest extent the law allows.”

In response, Governor Jim Justice rebuked Morrisey’s post and issued the following statement:

“I was saddened this evening to see the statement that Attorney General Morrisey posted to his Facebook. With the overwhelming majority of West Virginians in favor of wearing masks, it is extremely disheartening that he doesn’t also strongly support the wearing of masks, especially after all our medical experts on a state and federal level have made it abundantly clear that wearing a mask works to stop this virus.

“West Virginians have entrusted me to make the right decisions in the best interest of our health and prosperity. I will work tirelessly to keep our businesses open, our people working, and our schools open. Wearing our masks, while inconvenient, will help. I consider it an honor to be in this position. I have always done what I believe in my heart is best for all West Virginians and I promise you I will not stop until we stop this pandemic.”

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