Nobody really knew Republican Patrick Morrisey when he ran against longtime Democratic state Attorney General Darrell McGraw. It was easier to criticize how McGraw ran the office than to show why Morrisey would do better.
Morrisey's new policies for hiring outside counsel should boost public confidence a good deal.
Morrisey and others criticized McGraw for frequently hiring outside counsel to pursue big damage cases from which they also profited handsomely.
The new attorney general has installed policies that make the selection of outside counsel more competitive and transparent, and the office itself more accountable to the public.
* Lawyers will come from pre-approved lists of bidders. The list will be reviewed at least every two years.
* The attorney general's office will retain direct control over litigation and settlement decisions proposed by outside counsel.
* Morrisey has set a series of caps on how much lawyers can collect in fees on settlements: No more than $50 million in any one case. No more than 25 percent of the first $10 million recovered, 25 percent of the next $5 million; and then dropping to 15 percent, 10 percent and 5 percent in increments.
The attorney general thus preserves and strengthens West Virginia's ability to retain highly qualified outside counsel to pursue cases, but manages their fees responsibly and transparently as well.
Morrisey has cooperated with the Legislature on how settlement money is spent. He has installed more accountability for staff time and better accounting for funds.
And now he has set up a transparent system for hiring outside counsel.
Morrisey is working hard, taking a fresh look at an office that has been in the same hands for a long time, and keeping his focus firmly on better service to the public.
The public has reason to be pleased by the attorney general's decision to retain new counsel.