Documents representing official acts of the Governor are entered into the Executive Journal. Historically this was a large set of bound volumes documenting the actions of every governor since 1863. Many of the books are housed in a vault in the Secretary of State's Office. The original entries in the old volumes are written in the careful, flowing script of the time.
The modern volumes retain the bound book format, but the entries are printed from a computer. All of the entries, however, bear the signature of the Governor and the Secretary of State.
Today, the entries in the Executive Journal are maintained in a database with images of each document. The original documents are labeled and stored.
Many of these documents are available online by using the Executive Journal Search.
Select a tab for more details about the types of documents which are recorded in the Executive Journal:
The West Virginia Constitution gives the Governor executive power, which is implemented in certain situations through executive orders. Those orders have the force of law. However, the Governor may not use this authority to overturn or substitute for the legislative process. Also, the courts may review executive orders to determine whether they are constitutional. This is the provision of the West Virginia Constitution which creates this authority.
Article VII. Section 5 "The chief executive power shall be vested in the governor, who shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed."
The text of older executive orders, or in some early cases a summary of the orders, are published in the Executive Journal book from that year. More recently, the orders are indexed in the on-line database, imaged and available to view on this site.
Go to Executive Journal Search to find documents.
Although the distinction is not made in the West Virginia Constitution or laws, proclamations fall into two major categories; Official Proclamations and Ceremonial Proclamations.
The term "Official Proclamations" is used to describe proclamations that put an official action into effect or announce something as official. These proclamations may formally announce the official results of an election, call a special session of the Legislature, declare a state of emergency, approve a judicial retirement, or other official notice. The recent official proclamations are included in the executive orders database.
The term "Ceremonial Proclamations" is used to describe proclamations issued to bring attention or recognition to a person, group or cause. Through a proclamation, the Governor may designate a day, week or month for commemoration. These documents are also indexed and available to view on this site in a database. Please use the Executive Journal Search link above.
For more information about these historical documents, please see Historical Perspective.
The Governor is given the authority to make appointments of four types, including executive agency heads, members of boards, commissions, task forces and councils, positions authorized by the Legislature for specific reasons, and persons to fill vacancies in certain federal, state, legislative and judicial offices.
The appointment of executive agency heads, such as cabinet level secretaries, commissioners, directors and assistants, allows the Governor to set the direction of the administration. Each Secretary (often called a "super-secretary" in news reporting) is appointed at the beginning of a new governor's term, and all report directly to the Governor.
After the new secretaries are appointed, they work with the Governor to select division directors and commissioners and their deputies or assistants who will manage the ongoing operations. Most employees below the level of deputy or assistant director or commissioner are hired within the agencies.
Boards, commissions, task forces, advisory boards, councils and other terms are used in the names of two types of governing or advisory groups. For convenience, we will use the term "board" to describe all of these bodies. Boards which have governing authority, including the authority to make rules which have the force of law, are created by the Legislature. Boards which are created to serve in an advisory or study capacity may be created by either the Legislature or by the Governor through an executive order, and a few boards have been created by other means, such as by the courts.
Executive Journal Search
An Act of the Legislature creating a board specifies the number and qualifications of members, who appoints those members, whether the appointments are subject to confirmation of the State Senate, and the terms of office, compensation, duties and restrictions on other employment or political activity of members. In most cases, the members are to be appointed by the Governor, although some boards may have members appointed by other officers or bodies, and a few by the leaders of the Senate and House of Delegates.
When a board is created by the Governor, the executive order defines the membership and structure. Since the Governor has no authority to authorize spending authority to a board created by executive order, any expenses of the board must be covered by the budget of the Governor's Office or the agency which the board advises.
A member appointed by the Governor begins to serve either at the time of appointment or the beginning of the term, whichever is later. However, if Senate confirmation is required, any appointee who is not confirmed vacates the position. When a term ends, the Governor may either reappoint the same individual or appoint a new person. Often in the past, appointments for the new term were not made until long after the previous term had ended. In those cases, the previous member continued to serve into the new term until the Governor took action.
Each member appointed to a board created by the Legislature is required to execute an oath of office prior to beginning the duties of membership. Those oaths are also filed and maintained by the Secretary of State.
Boards themselves often have a defined "life." To prevent boards from continuing on and on after the original purpose was fulfilled, the Legislature has adopted so-called "sunset" provisions. These refer to language within a board's legislative authorization that defines when the board will automatically cease to exist unless the Legislature takes a further action to continue it. When a bill to continue a board is proposed, the number of additional years may be set by the Legislature. When a board is not operating well, the Legislature may give it a shorter extension to force change. When a board is functioning efficiently, the Legislature may show its confidence by extending the board for a longer term. Boards created by the Governor that are given a sunset provision may be extended by Executive Order
The Governor has the power to fill vacancies in many elective public offices. When an elected official resigns, retires or dies, the term is filled by this appointment, usually until the next election allows the citizens to choose a successor. There are a few exceptions to this rule, based on the requirements of the U. S. Constitution or the West Virginia Constitution and law. The Governor must appoint a person who meets the qualifications of the office. In some cases, the law provides methods for certain committees to offer formal nominations, and if the conditions are met, the Governor must select from the nominations provided.
This list includes all the elective offices for which vacancies are filled by gubernatorial appointment, with the term of the appointment, the nomination process and the reference to West Virginia Code. The phrase "Until next election..." used in this table means "until a general election at which a person is elected to the unexpired term and that election is certified and the new official is declared elected." The timing of these steps varies some. If the office is scheduled to be on the ballot at the next general election, the appointee will complete the current term and the new term will be filled by election.
Until next election if more than two years and six months of term remain. No nominations.
Until next election if more than two years and two months of term remain. Must select from three nominees submitted by appropriate Senatorial District Executive Committee, or for single-county districts, by the county executive committee of the same party as the former Senator, if the committee provides nominations within 15 days of vacancy.
Until next election in which candidate can file for nomination. No nominations.
Until the end of the term. Must select from three nominees submitted by appropriate multi-county Delegate District Executive Committee, or for single-county districts, by the county executive committee of the same party as the former Delegate, if the committee provides nominations within 15 days of vacancy.
Two high offices are filled by means other than gubernatorial appointment. Members of the U. S. House of Representatives must be elected by the people through a special election (West Virginia Code §3-10-4). The Governor cannot appoint his or her own successor, so that authority has been assigned to the President of the Senate, to be followed immediately by a special election (West Virginia Code §3-10-2).
Local offices in counties and municipalities are filled by local officials.
Most resignations presented to the Governor are eventually filed in the Secretary of State's Office. However, that practice has not been consistent, so some resignations may not be able to be found.
The Governor has the authority to grant most reprieves and pardons. For information on how to obtain a pardon, reprieve, commutation or respite, please contact the Governor’s office at (304) 558-2000. For information about whether such a document is on file, please contact the Secretary of State’s Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or (304) 558-6000.
As in most states, the Governor has the authority to alter the sentence of a person who has been convicted under state law during that person's incarceration in a state, regional or county detention facility, after they have been released on parole, or even after the sentence has been served completely.
In West Virginia, the authority is established in the Constitution, Article VII, Section 11:
"The Governor shall have power to remit fines and penalties in such cases and under such regulations as may be prescribed by law; to commute capital punishment and, except where the prosecution has been carried on by the house of delegates, to grant reprieves and pardons after conviction; but he shall communicate to the legislature at each session the particulars of every case of fine or penalty remitted, of punishment commuted and of reprieve or pardon granted, with his reasons therefor."
Different orders are used, depending on the specific effect on the sentence which is intended. These documents are permanently recorded with the Secretary of State and entered into the Executive Journal.
Select an order below for more information:
A pardon is given to release a person from the remainder of the sentence. The document issuing the pardon may characterize the pardon as "full and complete" or "conditional."
Full and Complete Pardons
Full and complete pardons are permanent, and are not issued frequently.
Conditional pardons are slightly more common, because the person pardoned remains under the supervision of the Division of Corrections, and if the conditions are violated, the person may be immediately returned to custody.
The conditions usually include remaining in the State, and violating no criminal laws.
When a conditional pardon is violated and a person is returned to prison, the term of the sentence resumes from the time served prior to release.
A reprieve may be given to postpone the beginning of incarceration or shorten the period of incarceration, perhaps due to extenuating circumstances or even overcrowded facilities.
These are the most common of these actions by the Governor, with over 641 having been granted over a 36 year range of data maintained.
A rescission of reprieve withdraws the reprieve.
A commutation shortens the total term of the sentence, and is usually issued when the individual has demonstrated good behavior and a likelihood of full rehabilitation.
An example would be commutation of a life sentence to a specific number of years.
A form of statutory commutation has also been created to deduct time from the sentence for "good time" served. This commutation is determined by the commissioner of corrections, rather than the Governor.
A respite is a temporary release, usually for reasons of medical treatment or recuperation.
The period of respite may or may not count toward serving the term of the sentence.
The Governor may issue an order of executive clemency to apply the period of medical respite to the period of the sentence.
Several sections of West Virginia Code (§5-1-16a,
§28-5-27) refer to pardons and other
The law relating to the "expungement" of a criminal record following a pardon, which essentially serves to make confidential any court records relating to an individual's conviction in a case, has been the subject of debate. However, West Virginia law still allows persons who receive a full and complete pardon to apply to the courts for expungement of the record.
To search other parts of the Code, visit the Legislature's web site and select WV Code.
Requisitions, Waivers and Extraditions are official actions of a governor which are used when the custody of accused or convicted criminals is transferred between states.
If a person is accused of committing a crime in West Virginia but has fled to another state, a fugitive warrant may be issued to bring that person back to face charges in West Virginia. If that person is arrested, the "asylum state" contacts West Virginia law enforcement to determine whether our state, the "demand state," still wants to bring the accused back and is willing to extradite that person. If so, a hearing is held on the fugitive warrant, and the accused has specific rights.
During the extradition proceedings, the accused fugitive may agree to be returned to West Virginia to face charges without further court action by signing a waiver of extradition. This agreement allows West Virginia law enforcement officials to take immediate custody of the fugitive and return to West Virginia.
If the accused refuses to waive extradition, the county prosecutor where the crime was committed applies to the Governor for a requisition to be issued. If the documents are in order, the Governor issues the requisition, and appoints an agent to take custody of the accused.
The requisition goes to the asylum state governor, who may issue a warrant to the sheriff of the county where the fugitive is held, ordering the fugitive turned over to the appointed agent.
The same series of events happens when another state seeks to have a person returned from West Virginia to face charges there; extradition. Sometimes, differences in the severity of sentencing between states may result in contested extradition proceedings. For example, if murders have been committed in two states and one of the states has a death penalty and the other does not, a fugitive may try to avoid extradition to the state with the death penalty.
Requisitions issued by the Governor of West Virginia are on file and entered in the Executive Journal. Waivers signed by persons in West Virginia agreeing to be taken to another state are also on file but are not recorded in the Executive Journal.
Several sections of West Virginia Code refer to requisitions, waivers and extraditions.
Because of the unique nature of the railroads, which cut their own privately owned thoroughfares through the state but transport people and goods as highways do, the Legislature created a special police officer to help handle law enforcement. These special police are appointed by the Governor, on application by a railroad company. Although the law sets no specific eligibility requirements for appointment, the Governor's Office requests a background check before the appointment is made.
Upon appointment, each special police officer is required to execute the oath prescribed by the Constitution. The original oath must be filed in the office of the clerk of the county commission in the county where the special police officer resides. After that original is filed, the officer or the employer must obtain certified copies of the original oath and file one with the Secretary of State and one with the clerk of the county commission of each county which the railroad passes through. The authority of the officer within a county depends on whether the oath is on file in that county.
No specific term is attached to the appointment of these special officers, and they retain the status and authority of special railroad police for as long as they continue in the employment of the company for which they were appointed. When the company no longer employs a person as a special police officer, the company files a notice to that effect under its corporate seal with the Secretary of State and with each county in which the original appointment was filed. The officer's authority ceases when that notice is filed.
The Governor may revoke an appointment for good cause. Special police officers may also be removed from office for official misconduct, incompetence, habitual drunkenness, neglect of duty, or gross immorality under the removal procedures established for other officers in W. Va. Code Chapter 6, Article 6.
The authority of special railroad police is the same as that a deputy sheriff in a county where the railroad extends and where the officer's oath is on file.
The provisions authorizing the appointment of special railroad police appears in the article of the West Virginia Code relating to crimes against property, W. Va. Code §61-3-41. The section relating to railroad property crimes dates back to Virginia in 1849, but it wasn’t until 1909 did the Legislature create this special position. The section was amended 1915, 1923, 1976 and 2005, but it remains only a brief paragraph in the West Virginia Code.
If we may be of any further assistance, please don't hesitate to contact us: 304.558.6000 toll free 866.767.8683 email: AdLaw@wvsos.gov