In just eight months on the job, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has recused himself from three state lawsuits. These cases involve companies his previous law firm had represented or organizations he or his wife had dealings with with before he become the state's lead attorney.
Good for him. Better yet, good for the citizens of West Virginia.
Prior to being selected by the voters of the Mountain State, Morrisey worked for large law firms in Washington D.C.
In the most recent recusal reported by Daily Mail reporter Dave Boucher, Morrisey's previous employer, King & Spalding, represented Bank of America, one of 20 financial institutions named in a 2010 lawsuit by the attorney general's office.
King & Spalding is a large international law firm, with 160 attorneys in its D.C. office alone. Morrisey said he himself did not do any work with Bank of America, yet he decided to turn responsibility for that case to Chief Counsel Dan Greear.
"Any time a lawyer with a large firm changes firms or enters government service, there will be circumstances where it is appropriate for that lawyer to remove himself from involvement in a case in order to maintain the highest ethical standards," Morrisey's spokeswoman Beth Ryan said. "This is natural when you have highly experienced individuals from the private sector enter public service."
Morrisey's recusal from this case and two others is admirable. It shows a high level of professionalism in the attorney general's office as he takes pre-emptive action to remove any appearance of impropriety.
Several years ago, state Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin refused to recuse himself from a court case involving Massey Energy, whose chief executive had contributed millions to defeat Benjamin's election opponent, Warren McGraw.
Regardless of Benjamin's ability to be objective, his continued involvement in the case created unnecessary controversy, as well as an appeal of his court's decision on the Massey case. The U.S. Sup-reme Court ruled in 2009 that Benjamin's presence on the bench constituted a denial of due process for the litigants, sending the case back to be reheard.
Morrisey's recusal actions are refreshing. Avoiding even the appearance of impropriety is the standard elected officials must follow.