Category Archives: Courts and law

Delta – 8 THC and the Government’s Marijuana Plans Go “Up in Smoke”

Is cannabis legal in Virginia? Most followers of this blog are aware of the recent legislative efforts in Virginia to decriminalize and then legalize the possession of intoxicating marijuana by adults. Most followers of this blog believe that Virginia is presently in a twilight world where recreational possession of intoxicating marijuana is legal while the sale of such marijuana is illegal. Most followers of this blog are wrong.

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production and sale of hemp based products so long as those products contained almost no delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is the compound in THC that (usually) gets people high.  Unfortunately for the federal legislation there is no prohibition on delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol. Delta-8 as it’s called has a mild intoxicating effect. The apparent assumption in the 2018 Farm Bill was that Delta-8 was not a problem in the quantities found in non-intoxicating hemp products. Then along came the free market. Legal hemp products are being used to extract Delta-8 in quantities and potencies easily sufficient to intoxicate a person consuming the substance. Intoxicating marijuana products based on Delta-8 are publicly and legally on sale across the country including in Virginia. So, the sale of intoxicating marijuana products is currently legal in Virginia.

Continue reading

Time for Amputation: NoVa Merging with “New D.C.”

D.C. Statehood. There has been a long running chorus of cries for D.C. residents to have full representation in Congress. From “Taxation Without Representation” slogans on D.C. license plates to the Biden Administration’s calls for DC to become the 51st state … this debate has gone on for a while. Most discussion devolves into pure politics. D.C. would bring two more liberal U.S. senators and a liberal U.S. Representative who can vote. People either love or hate that idea. Back in May I wrote a column on this blog about Northern Virginia joining D.C. in the 51st state.  In this column I’d like to put aside the politics and focus on the ethical considerations for making D.C. a state.

Because they’re Americans. The nearly 700,000 residents of Washington,  D.C., pay their full share of federal taxes. Residents of D.C. were subject to be drafted in times of war, fought and died in our country’s battles and are required to obey all laws passed by Congress. In other words, D.C. residents have all the responsibilities of American citizenship. However, they are not represented in the U.S. Congress. They have no senators and their one representative can’t vote. The biggest ethical reason to make D.C. a state is so its citizens have all the rights of being American, including the right to representation in Congress. Continue reading

Recidivism: The Rest of the Story, Part 3–Who Comes Back to Prison?

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Prior posts (here and here) discussed the increase in the Commonwealth’s recidivism rate and the possible explanations for that increase. This post, the last in the series, will examine the characteristics of recidivists, or which offenders are most likely to commit new crimes upon their release from prison.

Despite what is depicted in movies and on television, and claimed by some on this blog, offenders who have previously committed violent crimes are not likely to go on violent rampages once they get out of prison. The recidivism rate for violent offenders is lower than that of nonviolent offenders.

Predictors of Recidivism. DOC analyses of its data have shown “a consistent link between certain factors and recidivism.”  The most common predictors are:

  1. Gender—males are more likely than females to recidivate (24.8% vs. 18.0%.)
  2. Age — younger inmates are more likely to recidivate.
  3. Previous state-responsible (SR) incarceration — inmates with a greater number of previous SR incarcerations are more likely to recidivate.
  4. Crime type of most serious offense—as noted above, inmates who have committed nonviolent crimes are more likely to recidivate.

Continue reading

Three More Proposals to Reduce Gun Violence in Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

There was extensive commentary on my post yesterday that recommended expanded use of stop and frisk in an attempt to reduce gun violence. Given the demonstrated interest in the subject, I offer three suggestions that go further.

Increase federal prosecutions. Federal laws, penalties, detention hearings and prosecutions are a far more formidable deterrent to street use of guns than their state and local counterparts.

Virginia should increase its referrals of firearms violations to federal authorities in the same manner and using the same joint task forces as it does with drug violations.

Criminals do not have to be rocket scientists to understand the differences in consequences between prosecutions under state or local laws vs. federal firearms laws. Their lawyers will explain it to them.

Let Virginia Attorneys General prosecute gun crimes directly without local concurrence. The far left is conflicted between their hatred of guns and their desire to reduce prison populations. When they speak of gun control, they generally do not mean no bail and heavy sentences for gun crimes.

I will go out on a limb and suggest that perhaps a woke Commonwealth’s Attorney plea bargaining a felony gun crime down to a misdemeanor is not the way to reduce gun violence. Continue reading

Understaffed Police Departments, Skyrocketing Gun Violence and “Stop and Frisk”

by James C. Sherlock

The print edition of The Virginian-Pilot today ran the story we commented on yesterday on the surge in gun violence killing children in Norfolk. The headline in the online version:

Nearly a dozen children were shot in July in Norfolk. Communities are hurting, and activists want change.

None of the nearly 2,200 words of the article mentioned stop and frisk. The referenced “activists” oppose stop and frisk as unavoidably linked to racial profiling. Courts disagree.

But I suspect that The Virginian-Pilot considers it off limits to even bring up.

It is one of the most fundamental policing techniques for reducing gun violence. In 2011, the NYPD arrested 82,286 persons as a result of stop and frisk encounters. Mike Bloomberg was mayor. The use of stop and frisk has plummeted since then under Mayor DeBlasio.

Those concerned with urban violence have a right to be concerned.  The past few years of political turmoil over policing has resulted in increasing shortages of officers and reductions in street policing. The direct results: more guns on the street, more killings of the innocent. Continue reading

“Model Polices” on Transgender Students vs. Laws Guaranteeing Parental Rights

by James C. Sherlock

Emilio Jaksetic wrote an excellent article this morning.

Mr. Jaksetic, a lawyer, commented on the decision by Judge J. Frederick Watson of the 24th Judicial Circuit of Virginia, to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the Virginia Board of Education’s Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools for lack of standing.  The judge did not rule on the substantive merits of lawsuit.

So, Christian Action Network did not have standing. I also believe that it sued under the wrong theory of law and in the wrong court. I told them so at the time.

One basic flaw in Model Policies is that it specifically permits portions of educational records to be withheld from parents by school personnel. That was not challenged by the Christian Action Network suit.

Yet it appears to be illegal under both federal and state laws.

School boards should take actions on Model Policies only with qualified legal advice. Continue reading

Dueling Claims of Victory in Transgender Lawsuit

by Emilio Jaksetic

On July 27, 2021, Judge J. Frederick Watson, with the 24th Judicial Circuit of Virginia, issued a decision on a lawsuit challenging the adoption of the Virginia Board of Education’s Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools, reports The Virginia Star. Because Judge Watson dismissed the lawsuit for lack of standing, he properly did not rule on the substantive merits of lawsuit.

A copy of Judge Watson’s decision is available here. A copy of the Virginia Board of Education Model Policies is available here.

Despite dismissal of the lawsuit on procedural grounds, both sides claimed victory.

The Christian Action Network claimed victory on the grounds that Judge Watson’s decision included a ruling that the Model Policies is a guidance document and that school boards have the option to decide whether or not to follow it. Furthermore, the Christian Action network claimed “the judge is granting school boards the right to decline to act on Virginia’s ‘Model Policies,’ which is exactly what our lawsuit intended.”

The ACLU of Virginia claimed victory on the grounds that dismissal of the lawsuit was warranted, and asserted “[a]ll school boards in the state are legally required by law to pass policies aligning with the model policies for the 2021-22 school year.” Continue reading

Confederate Statues and Judicial Fiats

by James A. Bacon

The Roanoke County Courthouse is located, oddly enough, in the independent city of Salem. Nearby, within the sight of the courthouse, there stands a statue of a Confederate soldier in front of a building owned by Roanoke College. The college would like to remove it, but the statue is situated on a scrap of land owned by Roanoke County, and only the Board of Supervisors is empowered to make the decision. The County has not been moving on the matter as expeditiously as some would like, and now Roanoke County Circuit Court judge Charles Dorsey has determined that the statue “obstructs the proper administration of justice in the Roanoke County Courthouse.”

The arguments in favor of keeping the Confederate statues are familiar to us all, and I will not re-hash them here other than to note that this particular statue, raised in 1909, does not glorify the Confederacy, the ante-bellum era, or the mythology of the Lost Cause. The placard says simply that it was erected “in memory of the Confederate soldiers of Roanoke County. … Love makes memory eternal.”

My interest here is not to re-litigate the propriety of maintaining a statue that honors nameless Confederate soldiers but to highlight Dorsey’s judicial activism. Impatient with the processes of representative democracy — the county board will not take any formal action until January 2022 — he has issued an order:

Either the Court must be removed to an appropriate location or the monument must be removed during the operation of the Court, the Court so finds, and the same is ORDERED.

Continue reading

Is DOJ’s Focus on Healthcare Monopolies Coming to Virginia?

by James C. Sherlock

The Acting head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, Richard A. Powers, yesterday delivered a speech that described the Justice Department’s new goals, strategies and resources for criminal antitrust enforcement.

The clouds have darkened over Virginia’s healthcare monopolies.

The Commonwealth. Virginia has failed in its duty to oversee its healthcare industry.  The full extent of that failure has been detailed in previous columns.

It has failed in two major ways:

  1. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has been captured by the healthcare provider industry that it regulates. Indeed VDH has been actively complicit in industry evasion of antitrust statutes through its administration of Certificate of Public Need (COPN) law.
  2. The Commonwealth’s regulatory structure has a strategic vulnerability. Neither the VDH that regulates providers nor the State Corporation Commission that regulates insurers can adequately oversee integrated health care delivery and insurance companies to prevent or detect what amount to internal conspiracies in restraint of trade. In the wrong hands, integrated provider monopolies and regionally powerful insurers can serve as weapons against competitors to both.

Continue reading

Constitutionality of Vaccination Mandate

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

There has been much opposition expressed on this blog regarding UVa, and, by extension, other higher education institutions, requiring students and staff to be vaccinated against COVID as a requirement for attending class in the fall.  The policy has been said to be, among other things, unconstitutional.

Not surprisingly, a judge has spoken. Today, a federal district judge ruled in favor of Indiana University in a suit brought challenging that university’s vaccination mandate. The court said, “The Fourteenth Amendment permits Indiana University to pursue a reasonable and due process of vaccination in the legitimate interest of public health for its students, faculty and staff.”

Of course, this is only one judge and it is not unusual for judges in different parts of the country to rule differently on similar points of law. Also, a district court’s ruling is generally applicable only in that district, but the case is likely to have some precedential value elsewhere.

The challengers have vowed to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Only the Courts Are Protecting Virginians – Again

by James C. Sherlock

Barton Swain explores a topic in the Wall Street Journal that bears examination in Virginia. He makes a profound observation:

“The sheer illogic of (the Texas election laws) controversy captures something essential about culture-war progressives. They are able to embrace a cause, condemn dissenters and doubters as monsters, and experience no cognitive dissonance despite having themselves held the contrary view a short time ago.”

It is evidence of a rejection by many of their own personal and political histories — of positions they once claimed on moral grounds. They dismiss citizens as beneath contempt for beliefs that until recently they held themselves. 

Sackcloth and ashes are not often in evidence, unless you count black face. Continue reading

Richmond Public Schools Show No Progress on Staff COVID Vaccinations

by James C. Sherlock

Last updated Just 15 at 4:16 PM

I have long taken a personal interest in the City of Richmond Public Schools (RPS). Its students have a right under the Virginia constitution to a quality education that they are systematically denied. RPS has utterly failed to educate the children under its care. The proof is in the Virginia Department of Education’s School Quality Report.

The Board of Education dutifully reports that fact every year to the Governor and the General Assembly — another constitutional requirement. Neither takes effective action.

Now most of RPS school personnel have failed to get vaccinated. School starts next month.

Action is warranted. None appears in the offing. Continue reading

Transgender Medical Care for Children – Do not Parents Have a Role?

by James C. Sherlock

Yesterday’s two-part column, I responded to the Virginian-Pilot’s assertion that transgender rights are being conflated by conservatives with critical race theory in schools. 

I agree that they are, and I find it appropriate.  

Child instruction in CRT and transgender affirming psychological and medical interventions for children without parent participation are being advocated by the same people.

Some of our progressive commenters professed shock — shock — that I would characterize VDOE’s Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools as child transgender advocacy.  

A motion for immediate relief from Model Policies filed in Lynchburg circuit court offered some of the legal objections. Amicus briefs have been filed on both sides. So fair enough to disagree with me.

I will relate two contrasting viewpoints, one expressed in The Washington Post and the other by the the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The first minimizes the role of parents; the other considers parents as partners.

That is the primary political bone of contention in both the CRT in K-12 public schools and transgender student model policies controversies. The rest is details. To argue otherwise is sophistry.  So pick a side. Continue reading

Virginia Nets $80 Million for Opioid Treatment

by James A. Bacon

Virginia’s Opioid Abatement Authority will get an $80 million shot in the arm (so to speak) from the resolution of a lawsuit pursued by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and his peers in 14 other states. The bankruptcy-court settlement with the Sackler family and its company Purdue Pharma requires payment of $4.3 billion nationally for prevention, treatment and recovery efforts across the country.

Additionally, Purdue and the Sacklers are required make public more than 30 million documents, including attorney-client privileged communications about the original FDA approval of OxyContin and tactics to promote opioids.

“No dollar amount will ever bring back the Virginians we have lost to the opioid crisis or repair the families that have to live with the devastating effects of losing a loved one, but this settlement is an important step in our ongoing efforts to combat the opioid crisis,” said Herring in a press release. Continue reading

Wake Up, Everybody!

Josef Mengele, the so-called “angel of death” at Auschwitz, was not a big believer in informed consent for medical experiments. He evaded capture and condemnation by the Nuremburg Doctors’ Trial. More than a dozen other doctors were hanged or given life sentences.

by Walter Smith

The stupor of Covidiocy has infected all levels of society and greatly damaged our social fabric. Out of fear and suppression of common sense and stories contradictory to “the narrative,” Americans are accepting an assault on their liberties, and have been blinded to see it – even pooh-poohing skeptics like me as “anti-science,” “anti-vax,” or “out of bounds” for making comparisons to precedents from the Nuremberg trials. Well, buckle up.

The COVID vaccine mandates are illegal and unconstitutional. That 450 colleges and universities have mandated the vaccination of students shows how little respect our elites – the “experts” who engaged in “gain of function” research, funded it in China when prohibited onshore, and lied about it – have for our liberties.

The Nuremberg Code was established as a result of the Doctors’ Trial after World War II. It set forth the premise for why certain doctors deserved punishment, including execution. I’m sorry if this offends you – while the truth may hurt, it can also set you free. Just read Article 1 on consent for medical experiments. Clear enough? Continue reading