The West Virginia House of Delegates on Wednesday passed a bill requiring people seeking the office of county prosecutor to be a licensed attorney.
The House adopted House Bill 3215 by a margin of 96-2 with no debate.
Existing state law doesn’t address the requirements to run for county prosecutor, whose role is to attend to the state’s criminal business in the county where they’re elected.
County prosecutors also can attend to civil lawsuits in the county involving the state, county commission or county board of education, according to state law.
If it becomes law, HB 3215 will add one sentence to state law that says: “To be eligible to file for the office of prosecuting attorney, a candidate shall be: (1) A duly licensed attorney in the State of West Virginia.”
Delegate Nathan Brown, D-Mingo, is the lead sponsor of the bill. Delegate Jonathan Pinson, R-Mason, is the co-sponsor.
During a House Judiciary Committee meeting March 19, Brown said he introduced the bill after the 2020 election for Mingo Prosecuting Attorney.
Prosecuting Attorney Duke Jewell was re-elected over Rocky Mounts in November by 12 votes, according to a report by the Williamson Daily News.
At the time of the election, Mounts was not yet licensed to practice law in West Virginia, Brown said.
Mounts was admitted to the West Virginia State Bar on March 17, according to the state bar’s membership portal.
Brown said he didn’t know what would have happened had Mounts been elected without a law license.
House Bill 3215 now advances to the Senate for consideration.