Category Archives: Courts and law

“Frequent Flyers” Are Not Harbingers of Anarchy

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

In a recent article on this blog, Jim Bacon cited the case of Ronald Thomas as a possible harbinger of a “descent into anarchy.”  One commenter cited 13 prior charges, many of which were “nol prossed”.

Just looking at a list of charges and their results can be misleading. It is necessary to look at the context.  It is common for law enforcement to charge a defendant with several separate offenses connected with the same incident.  It is also common, during the process, for prosecutors to reduce some of these charges and recommend an adjudication of nolle prosequi (“nol pros”) if the defendant pleads guilty to one or more charges.

A summary of the appearances of Thomas in Fairfax County and Arlington County district courts is set out below.  It is apparent that Thomas has been a busy man lately.  It is also obvious that he is an example of a long-time bane of law enforcement, sheriffs, and courts—a nonviolent offender who is in and out of jail frequently.  These are often referred to as “frequent flyers”. Continue reading

A Gun Owner’s Suggestion for Virginia Gun Laws

By James C. Sherlock

I was a career military man.

I am a conservative and a gun owner. As a younger man, I won competitive awards for marksmanship with both rifle and pistol.

I own a semi-automatic Glock for home protection.  I train regularly and at almost 77 can still hit what I aim at.

With that introduction, I have a couple of suggestions for gun legislation in Virginia that I hope will draw condemnation from both the left and the right so that I know I have it roughly right.

I have four criteria for firearms legislation:

  • changes that can matter to the safety of children and law enforcement officers;
  • changes that can deter criminals from use of a firearm in the commission of a crime;
  • changes that do not disadvantage the average citizen’s possession and use of firearms; and
  • changes that can pass Second Amendment review in federal court.

Those are, as a group, difficult needles to thread simultaneously.  They should be.

This article involves semi-automatic long guns – rifles and shotguns.

Continue reading

The Mercy Seat

Author Dale M. Brumfield’s new book chronicles the abolishment of Virginia’s death penalty.

by Peter Galuszka
Style Weekly

In 2015, Dale M. Brumfield, a veteran journalist and author, was finishing a masters degree in fine art in writing at Virginia Commonwealth University.

He learned of a prison inmate who escaped from Virginia to Florida, lived in a tent, and was caught after years of being on the lam.

“I got interested in talking to him for a story,” recalls Brumfield in his small office at his home in rural Hanover County.

The interview didn’t work out, but Brumfield says he got hooked on criminal justice and the death penalty. Not only did he write a book about the now-demolished Virginia State Penitentiary in Richmond, he became field director for Virginians Against the Death Penalty (VADP), an advocacy group that joined forces with other interested parties in abolishing capital punishment.

They were successful beyond their wildest dreams. In March of 2021, Virginia’s General Assembly voted to ban executions. It is the only state in the South to do so. “People had thought that this was far down the road. It caught everyone flat-footed,” he says. Continue reading

Miyares Wins Partial Transparency Victory

Jason Miyares, Attorney General of Virginia

by Steve Haner

Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) was partially successful in his efforts to challenge much of the secrecy shielding key data in Dominion Energy Virginia’s application to build its planned offshore wind facility, with some useful precedents set for the future.

Just before the hearings on the application began last week, a State Corporation Commission hearing examiner accepted the Attorney General’s office’s motion in part and rejected it in part. As a result, several portions of the SCC staff testimony have been filed again with dozens of previously redacted sections now open. Continue reading

Virginia Supreme Court Gives Hope to Competitors of Regional Healthcare Monopolies

Reese Jackson, CEO, Chesapeake Regional Medical Center

Is the Virginia Antitrust Act now in play?

by James C. Sherlock

There is good news this morning for those of us hoping for more competition to regional healthcare monopolies in Virginia.

The Virginia Supreme Court (the Court) overturned the decision of the State Health Commissioner to deny the application of the Chesapeake Regional Medical Center (CRMC) to create an open heart surgical service.

Sentara Health, unsurprisingly, objected to the application and was a party to the case before the Court. It also had been a party to the hearing by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) COPN (Certificate of Public Need) adjudication officer. That official then made a recommendation against CRMC that the health commissioner accepted. The court found his decision to be fatally flawed.

The Court remanded the original decision to the new health commissioner for re-consideration. In doing so, it overturned decisions by the Chesapeake Circuit Court (made by a visiting Norfolk judge who failed to disclose a conflict of interest) and by the appeals court that upheld that original decision.

The court found that the health commissioner made an error of law and that the courts erred in both:

  • deferring to the heath commissioner for interpretation of his agency’s own regulations without rigorous review of those regulations by the courts; and
  • applying the harmless error doctrine to that error of law.  

Continue reading

Silence of the Trumpets

by Jim McCarthy

Criminal justice at the local level in Virginia is the province of the 120 Commonwealth’s attorney offices funded primarily by the state, with some also receiving local supplement. Indigent defendants may avail themselves of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel through 28 public defender offices. Many other indigent defendants will be represented by court appointed counsel from lists and attorneys overseen by the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission (VIDC) which is the statutory organization for public defenders.

The genesis of the existence of public defenders arose in 1963, ten years before Roe v Wade, with the SCOTUS opinion in Gideon v Wainwright. The defendant, Clarence Earl Gideon, was sentenced to five years in prison after trial at which he requested the appointment of counsel to defend him. At the time, states were mandated to consider appointed counsel only in capital offense proceedings, not for lesser offences which might involve imprisonment. The unanimous court in Gideon concluded that the Sixth Amendment did not distinguish between capital and non-capital cases, finding that a defendant faces the danger of criminal conviction “because he does not know how to establish his innocence.”

This hallmark decision and its progeny later gave rise to the familiar Miranda warning (Miranda v Arizona, 1966), a required notification by police in a custodial setting: Continue reading

Bad News For Deadbeat Dads: Virginia’s Coming For You

by Kerry Dougherty

One of the first things Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares did after arriving in Richmond was meet with various departments in the AG’s office.

“I asked, ‘Do you have all of the tools to do your job with excellence?” Miyares recalled Wednesday morning on the “Kerry and Mike” morning radio show on WNIS.

The new attorney general was stunned by some of the answers.

Especially the responses from the lawyers in the Child Support Division. Attorneys there told him they wanted to vigorously prosecute deadbeat parents — read, dads — but that blanket dismissals of cases had taken place last year in the name of “fairness and equity.”

Looks like more misplaced compassion by those who brought us the parole board scandal. Seems Virginia paid a high price for the squishy bleeding hearts that ran state government during the Ralph Northam/Mark Herring years.

“There was no fairness for the mothers,” said Miyares pointedly. Continue reading

A Lot of Unanswered Questions

The Chambers family. Photo credit: Richmond Times Dispatch

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Painting racial slurs on the face of an unconscious Black teenage boy is wrong.

That being said, a recent incident in the Richmond area leads to a lot of questions, including concerning the quality of reporting done by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

According to an RTD on-line story Friday by reporter Mark Bowes, a Powhatan special prosecutor was looking into a 2020 incident in which a 16-year-old Black youth passed out intoxicated at a party in Powhatan County. While he was unconscious,”… the N-word, the letters KKK, a drawing of a penis, the phrase “F— BLM” and ‘White Lives Matter’ [were] scrawled on his head.” Also, he was draped with a Confederate flag and a sex toy was placed next to his head. As teenagers will do, others at the party took pictures of him and posted them on social media. Reportedly, this type of thing had been done before, as a “party joke.” Continue reading

What are We Doing to Ourselves with the Criminal Justice System?

by James C. Sherlock

I will share a press release this week from the Justice Department.

Convicted Felon Pleads Guilty to Fraud, Identity Theft, and Firearm Offenses

We’ll try to figure out at what point we lost our minds about law enforcement. Continue reading

The Latest Wrinkle in the Law-Enforcement-for-Rent Saga

by James A. Bacon

The Office of Attorney General (OAG) under former AG Mark Herring failed to adequately conduct a search for documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act by climate-change skeptic Christopher Horner, a Richmond Circuit Court Judge has found. The court ordered the OAG, now under Attorney General Jason Miyares, to conduct a new search.

The issue arose from communications between Herring’s OAG and the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center (SEEIC) backed by billionaire Michael Bloomberg. Under an arrangement agreed to by the OAG, SEEIC would fund the hiring of an OAG attorney to “advanc[e] progressive clean energy, climate change, and environmental positions.” Horner, a Keswick resident and senior fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, exposed the communications but hit a dead end in further inquiries when the OAG claimed an exemption for working papers.

The larger legal issue is whether Virginia’s Attorney General is allowed to strike deals with private parties to fund positions on his staff that the General Assembly has not approved in its budget. Although Herring negotiated a deal to pursue a left-leaning cause, his action could have created a precedent for a successor to collaborate with conservative groups to harness the power of the OAG to pursue conservative causes. Continue reading

Fix the Virginia Department of Health

Credit: PBS Healthcare Management

by James C. Sherlock

Governor Youngkin and his new administration have an opportunity to fix crucial problems in the Department of Health that have been festering for decades.

The issues:

  • How can Virginia regulate effectively its state-created healthcare monopolies?
  • In a directly related matter, how can we fix the failures, famously demonstrated during COVID, of the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) in its other missions ?

The power of Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) to control the business of healthcare in Virginia was the original sin.  Giving that power to the Department of Health made it worse.

From that point VDH was the agent of its own corruption. Never charged by the General Assembly to create regional monopolies in its administration of Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) law, VDH did so anyway.

Actions have consequences.

Now those regional healthcare monopolies are each the largest private business in their regions, have achieved political dominance in Richmond, and effectively control VDH. Continue reading

Paying for Miscarriages of Justice

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The 2022 General Assembly appropriated $6.5 million to compensate seven individuals who had been wrongly incarcerated.

The men had been convicted of crimes which it was later determined they did not commit.  They were:

Eugene Stevens--$1.7 million. (HB 394)  Stevens was convicted of murder in 1986 in Lancaster County and sentenced to 99 years in prison. The only physical evidence against him was a hair. The FBI now states that the tests used to compare that hair with Stevens’ hair is scientifically unreliable. Also, several prosecution witnesses lied and the Commonwealth presented false testimony.  Stevens was paroled after serving 32 years in prison. Based on work by the University of Virginia Innocence Project and the published opinion of a federal Court of Appeals judge that, in light of the facts newly discovered in the case, no jury would have reasonably found Stevens guilty, Governor Northam granted him an absolute pardon in 2021, noting that it “reflects Mr. Stevens’ innocence”.  For a fuller discussion of this case on this blog, see here. Continue reading

NOW They Sue

by Kerry Dougherty

They’re so dang proud of themselves.

My former employer, The Virginian-Pilot, is so delighted with itself for joining with other corporate news outlets to sue Gov. Glenn Youngkin that they’ve Tweeted about it six times and even put it on the front page for the ever-dwindling number of people who still subscribe.

They claim the governor violated the FOIA laws when he refused to turn over the contents of a tip line that parents can use to report divisive practices in the schools.

This is, in effect, a whistleblower line, which is traditionally regarded as privileged. But the Pilot, The Washington Post and NPR and other mainstream media outlets who loathe Youngkin seem determined to break that seal of privacy.

You know what’s really odd? Continue reading

Criminal Charges Against Conservative School Activist Dismissed

by James A. Bacon

A General District Court judge has dismissed criminal charges leveled by against Harry Jackson, a conservative parent active in the Thomas Jefferson High School of Science and Technology admissions controversy. A Fairfax magistrate had charged Jackson, who had alleged in tweets and a YouTube video that a political antagonist had engaged in “grooming” of high school students, with slander.

What made the case unique, said RightDefense.org, a criminal justice group that represented Jackson, “is that criminal charges were brought to suppress the concerns of a conservative parent — as opposed to a civil lawsuit — and a George Soros-sponsored prosecutor allowed for the criminal prosecution to take place over the course of seven months.” Continue reading

Steve Descano: Will “Not Prosecute” Harry Jackson

by Asra Nomani

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — An attorney from the office of Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano has filed a motion to nolle prosequi, Latin for “not prosecute,” Harry Jackson, a former U.S. Naval intelligence officer and father who has been a strong parent advocate against the war on merit education in this Washington, D.C., suburb.

A judge will hear the motion at a scheduled hearing on Friday, April 8, at 10 a.m. in Fairfax County District Court in Fairfax, Va.

In this truly bizarre case, chronicled fully here, a local woke activist, Jorge Torrico, filed four criminal complaints starting in September 2021 with the local magistrate, alleging that Jackson broke a little-used criminal law against “slander and libel,” by posting a tweet asserting that Torrico had engaged in “‘grooming’ behavior” during a November 2020 Zoom meeting of the PTSA at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Jackson has a son at the school. Torrico is a 1998 graduate of the school and does not have any children who attend the school. Continue reading