AG Morrisey on executive orders: “no one is going to send people to jail”

CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – Governor Justice released a statement in response to a Facebook post by Attorney General Patrick Morrisey this evening.

Around 1:30 p.m., Morrisey posted this original statement to his Facebook page:

“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 just do their part to protect the public. 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.”

Several hours later, Governor Justice released a statement seemingly in response to the post about the legality and extent of executive order enforcement. In his statement, the governor says “it is extremely disheartening that he doesn’t also strongly support the wearing of masks.” It’s unclear which part of the attorney general’s Facebook post he is referencing.

The Facebook post has since been modified to include the following:

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

Last week, Governor Justice issued a stricter mask mandate, requiring face masks in all public indoor facilities regardless of any social distancing capabilities. With that announcement, Justice said if a person refuses to wear a mask in a business, the business should call the police. If a business refuses to enforce the order, Justice claimed it could also face charges for not complying with the executive order.

Kassie Simmons
Kassie Simmons joined the team in January 2019 as a weekend journalist. She graduated from Virginia Tech in just two and a half years with a BA in multimedia journalism. During her short time at Virginia Tech, she served as the editor for the university’s chapter of The Tab. Kassie was named the top reporter for The Tab at Virginia Tech on multiple occasions and made the list for the top 30 reporters for The Tab in the U.S. She also studied theater performance and minored in creative writing. Before coming to WOAY, Kassie interned at WSLS in Roanoke and the Tidewater Review in her hometown of West Point, Va. She has loved following breaking news since her childhood and has a passion for delivering the stories people care most about. Kassie is excited to be working in Southern West Virginia and looks forward to all the adventures ahead of her. You can follow her on Twitter at @KassieLSimmons and like her page on Facebook. If you have a story you think she should check out, send her an email at ksimmons@woay.com.