CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is entering 2023 with such momentum from a record-breaking 2022—his office kept up a vigorous fight on several fronts, sought to beat back energy policies that could destroy jobs, continued to combat opioid abuse and won historic victories in landmark court cases.
The crown jewel of the AG’s Office’s 2022 was the major victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in West Virginia v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which marked the most consequential development in environmental law since Attorney General Morrisey won a historic and unprecedented stay of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan at the Supreme Court in February 2016. West Virginia v. EPA also proves to be of high importance as far as administrative law is concerned.
The Attorney General in 2022 also defended—and won— one of the broadest school choice programs in the nation: the Hope Scholarship Act.
In 2022, the AG’s Office and West Virginia political subdivisions negotiated and secured the highest per capita opioid settlements in the nation—this was preceded by the creation of a Memorandum of Understanding between the state and most county and city governments throughout West Virginia to make sure the money from opioid settlements was distributed in the most fair and equitable way.
Attorney General Morrisey also was relentless in his fight against federal overreach as far as Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) woke policies are concerned— the Attorney General continues to be front and center in ensuring the rights of the people are protected and defended.
“This past year was unprecedented with several victories at the Supreme Court, best in the nation per capita opioid settlements with manufacturers and pharmacies and navigating continued federal overreach by the Biden administration,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “While it’s great to reflect on our progress, we must also continue to press onward and continue fighting for the people of West Virginia. We have laid a solid foundation upon which we can build another record of success in 2023.”
- Victories at the Supreme Court
In January 2022, Attorney General Morrisey, working with other state attorneys general, won a stay from the Supreme Court of the Biden administration’s mandate that all employees of large employers must receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The court ruled the federal agency implementing the mandate lacked authority to do so.
Then in June, the Supreme Court issued two landmark decisions. The first was the Dobbs case, which West Virginia supported in an amicus brief and which overturned Roe v. Wade. The second was West Virginia v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which the AG’s Office led and won. This pivotal case was integral to stopping President Biden’s radical climate change agenda. It marks the most consequential development in environmental law since Attorney General Morrisey won a historic and unprecedented stay of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan at the Supreme Court in February 2016.
There’s also a Second Amendment case the Attorney General joined in with 25 other states: the Supreme Court found a New York state law that placed onerous requirements on concealed carry permits infringes on the right to carry firearms in self-defense. Attorney General Morrisey followed up to ensure other states modify their gun policies in light of that decision, including sending a letter to the governor of nearby Maryland asking the chief executive to recognize West Virginia concealed weapons permits.
- Addressing Opioid Abuse
In 2022, Attorney General Morrisey did not relent in his committed fight against opioid abuse.
Earlier in the year, the Attorney General traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas with his fellow attorneys general to highlight how the Biden administration’s lax immigration policies have allowed deadly fentanyl to be trafficked across the nation, including the Mountain State.
In an effort to make sure the money from opioid settlements was distributed in the most fair and equitable way, the Attorney General established a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the state and most county and city governments throughout West Virginia. The MOU creates a private, nonstock, nonprofit foundation—the West Virginia First Foundation—for the purposes of distributing settlement or judgment funds awarded from litigation for abatement purposes.
The overall amounts thus far secured from opioid settlements is nearly $900 million.
He also continued more than six years of drug abuse prevention outreach efforts to students, including the annual “Kids Kick Opioids” PSA Contest and high school football “Games of the Week” in the fall.
The AG also wrote a letter to social media companies on the duty they have to better police their platforms for such things as illegal fentanyl sales, especially with the emergence of nitazenes, which are 10 times more deadly than fentanyl.
Additionally, on several occasions, he pushed the Biden administration to classify fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction.
He further called on the new Republican House majority to conduct extensive oversight of the U.S. Department of State’s efforts and lack thereof to address fentanyl in dealings with China and Mexico. Specifically, Attorney General Morrisey asked for congressional hearings to have U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken testify on what the Biden administration has done or failed to do with respect to the fentanyl crisis.
- Supporting Responsible Energy Policy
The West Virginia v. EPA decision was the culmination of a years-long, multistate lawsuit against the EPA. But the Attorney General’s Office has continued to push for responsible energy policy.
Recently, for example, Attorney General Morrisey led two coalitions that filed amicus briefs in a lawsuit against the EPA and NHTSA. In both cases, the agencies proposed rules that would have prematurely forced Americans into electric vehicles without considering the consequences.
Additionally, he led the fight against the Biden administration’s other efforts to illegally impose environmental regulations, including onerous regulations pertaining to methane and ozone, other greenhouse regulation and more.
And he has led the fight on woke Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policies. For instance, he led coalitions in filing multiple comment letters against proposals from the Securities and Exchange Commission to saddle American businesses with crippling ESG-related disclosure requirements. He also fought back against the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and bank regulators when they proposed to do much the same.
- Victory for West Virginia Parents and Students
At the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, a lower court put an injunction on funding for the Hope Scholarship Act, which would fund alternative private schooling choices to public education. Attorney General Morrisey took the case to the state Supreme Court of Appeals and won: the court vacated the injunction. Funding is expected to start flowing to families again this January.
- Winning and Advocating for West Virginia and the Nation
The Attorney General also won success for West Virginians in many other areas.
On many occasions, he fought for state residents against scams such as smishing, phishing, computer repairs, identity theft, elderly abuse and more.
He filed a brief at the U.S. Supreme Court with 23 other attorneys general on behalf of a Washington state football coach’s right to practice his religion and engage in free speech by praying at his games. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the coach.
The Attorney General was a frequent correspondent in other areas, as well, using the power of the pen to advocate for West Virginia on both state and national issues to make both places the best they can be and to stand up for citizens’ rights.
He led a 21-state coalition in filing formal comments opposing any Commodity Futures Trading Commission initiative that would require derivatives markets to make policy changes in the name of climate change.
And remember the baby formula shortage? Attorney General Morrisey led a multistate coalition in a letter to the FTC stating that overregulation and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children- related market distortions exacerbated a formula shortage already worsened by the Biden administration’s flat-footed response to problems at a critical manufacturing facility—the Abbott facility in Michigan.
Other accomplishments include the following:
- Joined West Virginia to a nationwide, bipartisan task force that will take legal steps to stop unlawful robocalls.
- Took steps to stop robotexts with the Federal Communications Commission.
- Alerted the public to consumer protection issues, including outreach during National Consumer Protection Week, International Charity Fraud Awareness Week and the West Virginia AG’s Holiday Consumer Protection Week.
- Wrote a brief in support of the Hill Top Hotel project in Harpers Ferry, which was part of the effort that persuaded a judge to dismiss a lawsuit against the town of Harpers Ferry and the project.
- Fought to protect Second Amendment rights and maintained concealed carry recognition with a majority of states across the nation.
- Joined with 17 other state attorneys general asking companies such as UPS and FedEx to clarify new policies that allow them to track firearm sales with unprecedented specificity and bypass warrant requirements to share that information with federal agencies.
- Led a multi-state coalition in a lawsuit against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the U.S. Department of Justice over the ATF’s new rule redefining “frame and receiver” to regulate most gun parts as firearms.
- Continued consumer outreach, including scam awareness presentations to senior centers and a weekly Consumer Protection Minute that appeared on television and radio stations across the state.
- Assisted with obtaining a guilty plea from a Putnam County contractor on two felony charges stemming from an investigation that he had violated state consumer protection laws with home improvement projects in Putnam, Kanawha, Mason and Jackson counties.
- Filed several suits against unethical businesses, including one against an unlicensed contractor who took consumers’ money and did not start or finish home improvement and other projects in Kanawha and Putnam counties.
- Joined a brief against a new rule implemented by the Biden administration’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that seeks to unlawfully expand its authority to encompass many practices that Congress chose not to grant the agency with the power to regulate, including the investigation and punishment of all acts of supposed discrimination in the consumer finance industry.
- Supported efforts to preserve school sports teams based on biological sex by championing a Women’s Bill of Rights.
- For the first time since it was created, the AG’s Office’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is now looking to recover losses incurred by West Virginia’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) due to provider fraud in addition to the state’s Medicaid losses on a case-by-case basis.
“There’s a lot more that needs to be done and my office will not falter in fighting and advocating for the rights of West Virginians,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “I’m excited to build upon these successes in 2023.”