Finally, The SCC Is Full Strength

The Honorable (Again) Patricia L. West (Click for larger view .)

Former Chief Deputy Attorney General and Circuit Court Judge Patricia West is heading to the State Corporation Commission and the only question it raises is, why did the Republicans feel compelled to ram her election through with such speed?

Was the coalition that fragile?

West apparently has not practiced law in front of the Commission on behalf of clients, and certainly has not lobbied the General Assembly on behalf of regulated clients.  Her campaign contributions are modest.  She has a long resume of leadership posts around state government, and if she has expressed strong opinions on any of the various regulatory controversies of the day, no one is aware.  But people forget most of what the SCC does is not controversial.

Her interview in front of the joint Commerce and Labor Committees was not streamed and archived, so exactly what was asked and answered may be lost to history.  A year ago, when current Commissioner Judith Jagdmann was interviewed, her answers were not so important as the shows of bravado put on by some of the legislators seeking to dictate outcomes of future cases.

Based on the news reports, West gave the same answers given by thousands of judicial candidates in front of hundreds of such panels over the years:  you people write the laws, we judges enforce them, and if the laws or facts are in conflict, that’s when we get to earn our pay.  The SCC is just three judges dealing with a set of laws the General Assembly has tangled into a mess and a set of facts insanely complicated.

Judge West comes in with no battle scars in these wars and is likely to make her own decisions and do the job the correct way.  Democrats were stung by the method of her appointment and blustered that her reappointment in a year or so might be in doubt.  Prediction:  She’ll finish out her long career of Virginia service as part of that important agency when she decides to leave, and all will praise her service.

UPDATE:  Now that I’ve seen what Virginia Mercury thinks, I’m liking her even better. 

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23 responses to “Finally, The SCC Is Full Strength

  1. What this demonstrates is that the Virginia GOP is unfit to lead.

    Despite all their blather about taxes on Virginians, here they had a responsibility to put someone on the SCC who would protect Virginians interests on issues that affect all of them – electricity and reining in Dominion on issues like excess profits and renewables and what they’ve done is demonstrate they care about none of this – it’s all about getting someone into the SCC via bump rush who – from what I can tell – is imminently unqualified.

    What you need at the SCC are folks who understand utilities and monopolies and who have a track record of dealing with those issues and what you got was someone who appears to have zero experience with utilities and regulation of them AND who tweets on Twitter and apparently “follows” folks like Anne Coulter.

    The Virginia GOP basically is doing whatever it can to harm the SCC.

    • “What you need at the SCC are folks who understand utilities and monopolies and who have a track record of dealing with those issues.” That’s just crazy. If this were a public utilities commission, like many other states have, one could make a strong argument that a level of experience with carriers and utilities is important.

      But the VSCC’s jurisdiction extends well beyond utility regulation. From its website.

      “The State Corporation Commission is vested with regulatory authority over many business and economic interests in Virginia. These interests are as varied as the SCC’s powers, which are delineated by the state constitution and state law. Its authority ranges from setting rates charged by large investor-owned utilities to serving as the central filing agency for corporations in Virginia.

      “Initially established to oversee the railroad and telephone and telegraph industries in Virginia, the SCC’s jurisdiction now includes many businesses which directly impact Virginia consumers. The SCC’s authority encompasses utilities, insurance, state-chartered financial institutions, securities, retail franchising, and railroads. It is the state’s central filing office for corporations, limited partnerships, limited liability companies and Uniform Commercial Code liens.”

  2. OMG, Larry, Republicans appointed a Republican. What a shock. Stop the presses! Given the stalemate, going with a candidate with no real track record on any of these issues made sense. The issue is not the judges of the SCC, the problem in this arena is right there in the GA.

    • Nice Try but the GOP has systematically tried to harm the SCC the last few years and this is another example where they had an opportunity to find a qualified person to do the job right – to represent the interests of taxpayers and ratepayers and once again, they chose not to and to further undermine the SCC.

      It’s one thing to operate and vote according to conservative fiscal principles versus what some think are tax and spend – but BOTH parties are supposed to work for the interests of taxpayers and, in fact, the GOP trumpets that theme incessantly in comparing themselves with Dems but the thing with the SCC is overt and ugly and really is a disservice to the party and voters.

      you said it but flinched: ” The issue is not the judges of the SCC, the problem in this arena is right there in the GA.”

      that “arena” is what the GOP does TO the SCC… the own that… it’s not by accident or ignorance – it’s a purposeful action to squat on the SCC again.

  3. They might have appointed a Republican who has actually dealt with energy regulation.

    • Yes, and instead they did this:

      “Judge West’s social media accounts regularly amplify anti-LGBT and xenophobic messages and voices,” said the Charlottesville group Clean Virginia, which is fighting the influence of Dominion Energy in state government. “Those views should have no place in our legal system.”

      Kind of a cheap suit version of our new leftist US House of Representatives, Charlottesville Style. What a show!

      • What a shame liberals can’t stick to germane facts. Judge West doesn’t seem like a good appointee to me because of her lack of energy regulatory experience and my sense that she is anti-environmentalist. I would like to have read more about either of these issues. However, as usual, that’s not where the liberal resistance (or, should I say … blatheristance) went. I’ve read Judge West’s social media re-tweets (and they are all re-tweets) in a number of liberal blog articles. Nothing to do with LGBT. Nothing to do with energy regulation or, really, even the environment. She’s pro gun rights and rightly considers actors like Leonardo DiCaprio as hypocrites when it comes to climate change.

    • My GAWD Peter.. doing that would have been downright blasphemous!!!

      Who ever heard of properly vetting appointees to insure they are qualified and have actually worked FOR taxpayers and ratepayers when she worked for Cucinelli. What she did in his office was work against laws that benefited Virginians but laws the GOP opposed. She also worked with Cuccinelli to “investigate” researchers in Va Colleges and also the lawsuit against Obamacare and the Medicaid Expansion. She has no history of working to support Virginians or protect their interests.

  4. Larry, the blind devotion to vote for whatever nonsense the utility wants infects members of both parties down at the GA. The Democratic posturing that they stand up to Dominion is pure hypocrisy, far worse in my opinion than some of the Republicans who are just open about their bias in favor of the utility and against the consumers in their districts. The Dems are for the utility and its donations as much as they are against it, the same way they are for border security until they are against it. Please.

    • ahh..the classic “both sides” argument! Oh I think SOME of the Dems are “dirty” yes – but not anything close to the GOP when it comes to their desire to undermine and harm the SCC…

      And there IS a difference between supporting Dominon and overtly harming the SCC and it’s role in regulating Dominion?

      If you come back with numbers showing “both sides” are equally guilty – I’ll issue the Mea Culpa! 😉

      You know – there is a reason why Virginia has been identified as one of the more corrupt states – this is right at that.

      • Larry, meet Dick Saslaw. I’d ask Democratic Senator Dick Saslaw to meet you Larry but he’s too busy bundling Dominion donations for redistribution through the Virginia Democratic Party and stuffing his face with expensive meals, paid for by Dominion, at Bookbinder’s in Richmond. Look him up on VPAP Larry. He’s the #1 Dominion toady in the General Assembly.

  5. Rather than discuss Judge West in a vacuum, and since I don’t subscribe to the Richmond papers, here is her complete bio from her current job, which gives me ample indications of how well connected she is:

    “Regent University — Faculty
    Judge Patricia L. West (Ret.)
    Associate Dean of Career and Alumni Services
    Distinguished Professor of Law and Government

    “BIO
    Judge Patricia L. West, who served as a judge in the Virginia Beach Circuit Court and who most recently served as chief deputy attorney general of Virginia, joined Regent University as a distinguished professor of law and government and as associate dean in the School of Law.

    West joined the attorney general’s office in 2012, after serving as a judge in Virginia Beach Circuit Court. She was named to the bench by the Virginia General Assembly in March 2000 after previously serving on the Virginia Beach Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. Former Virginia Governor George Allen appointed West to serve in his cabinet as secretary of public safety in 1996. She also served as director of the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice and headed the Governor’s Commission on Juvenile Justice Reform.

    West began her career as a law clerk to the Honorable Sam W. Coleman of the Court of Appeals in Virginia. She then joined the Virginia Beach City Attorney’s Office and worked in both the Virginia Beach and Norfolk Commonwealths’ Attorneys Offices, specializing in child abuse and neglect cases in all three offices. West also served in an advisory capacity to two previous attorneys general. She was a member of Attorney General Mark Earley’s 1998 Commission on Gangs and Youth Violence and also served on a commission investigating child abuse fatality rates in the Hampton Roads area. Under Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, she served on his Advisory Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault as chairman of the criminal justice committee and legal services committee. West has served on Regent University School of Law’s Board of Visitors since 2003.

    “AFFILIATIONS
    Board of Visitors, Regent University School of Law and Government, 2003- present.
    Advisory Board of Directors, Seton Youth Shelters, 2005 – present.
    Virginia Code Commission, 2010 – 2012.
    Criminal Justice Services Board, 2001-2005.
    Attorney General Mark Earley’s Commission on Gangs and Youth Violence, 1998.
    Attorney General Jerry Kilgore’s Advisory Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, 2002.
    Department of Juvenile Justice, Judicial Liaison Committee, 1998-2008.
    Former member, Virginia Bar Association’s Domestic Relations Section Council.
    Former member, National Institute of Justice’s Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Advisory Committee.
    Former member, Children’s Performance Workshop Advisory Board.”

    • One detail which Regents didn’t mention: Judge West obtained her undergraduate and law degrees from William and Mary.

      • You broke the code. On that basis alone I’m happy she’s getting this chance. Go Tribe.

      • No Dice, Man – looks like she is a hard right extremist, one of them damn Roman Catholics. And at very least she runs and cavorts with ’em, anyways. See damning evidence below:

        “Seton Youth Shelters was established in 1985 as Mother Seton House, Inc., by three local clergy and a few citizens who were concerned about the vulnerability of runaway and homeless girls living on the streets. The agency was named after Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first native-born American to be declared a Saint and a daughter of charity who provided shelter and schooling for orphaned girls and boys.

        Initially, girls were sheltered in the homes of host families but soon the number of girls needing assistance grew to the point that St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Virginia Beach’s Kings Grant community, stepped forward to provide the use of their rectory to house up to 11.”

      • Reed, this also is from the Regent website, though I wouldn’t call it damning:

        “West first forged a relationship with Regent more than a decade ago, when she began serving on the Board of Visitors for the School of Law. Her transition to a full-time position with Regent in 2014 is yet another avenue for her to work with students whom she considers among the “finest legal advocates” in the nation, and she is passionate about preparing students to fulfill the school’s mission: Christian Leadership to Change the World. In her own words, “I always saw Regent as a high-quality law school with a unique purpose. I wanted to be involved with the school because I believe in the mission.”

        “Even from a very young age, West felt that God placed a calling on her life to pursue a career in law. She was a pioneer in her family as the first one to attend college, let alone pursue a law degree. She graduated with a B.A. and a JD from The College of William & Mary. Despite all of her remarkable accomplishments, West is quick to give God credit for the work He has done through her legal career. “I believe that God called me to law, and I have enjoyed watching His plan unfold in my life,” she explains. Eric Patterson, dean of the Robertson School of Government, says, “Judge West is an example of how God prepares a person for what is next. She faithfully served as a prosecutor, and then a judge, and then in the State Capitol. Successful service led to greater opportunity and influence.”

        • Acbar –

          The plot thickens. Perhaps the Charlottesville group Clean Virginia can fill us all in as to how this new information impacts the judge’s competence to serve in public office in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

      • She does have an admirable list of affiliations but the question is how much does she know about electric utilities and monopolies?

        Let me give an example. Some courts specialize in things like domestic family, or immigration, or bankruptcy, etc… and the judges in those courts typically have the background needed to understand the issues.

        I see the SCC as similar … In order to make an intelligent and informed decision – the judges need to have the background to understand the issues.

        Second, the SCC is all about protecting the interests of ratepayers -and taxpayers – that’s it’s charge and it’s supposed to ensure that Dominion makes a fair profit but not excessive profits and that whole area is not under attack from the GOPpers in the GA who have just appointed this lady… I don’t see that as reassuring at all.

        I’d prefer to see folks at the SCC making decisions – as people who are familiar with the utility industry, monopolies – and the evolving technologies that are disrupting that industry.

        I don’t blame Dominion for doing everything they can to protect and enhance their business. On the other hand – ratepayers need someone to do their same for their interests and of late,it appears that most of the GOP (and perhaps some Dems) basically want to reduce or eliminate the ROLE of the SCC… and now the GA is putting someone in the leadership of the SCC who has no background in regulation and, in fact, has been involved in questionable activities like “investigating” folks who do research in Academia… that’s not good.

  6. “Judge West’s social media accounts regularly amplify anti-LGBT and xenophobic messages and voices,” said the Charlottesville group Clean Virginia, which is fighting the influence of Dominion Energy in state government. “Those views should have no place in our legal system.”

    According to beginning of long article on Xenophobia in Wikipedia:

    “Xenophobia is the fear and distrust of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange.[1][2] Xenophobia can involve perceptions of an ingroup towards an outgroup and can manifest itself in suspicion of the activities of others, and a desire to eliminate their presence to secure a presumed purity and may relate to a fear of losing national, ethnic or racial identity.[3] Xenophobia is a political term and not a recognized medical phobia.[citation needed]

    Xenophobia can also be exhibited in the form of an “uncritical exaltation of another culture” in which a culture is ascribed “an unreal, stereotyped and exotic quality”.[3] The terms xenophobia and racism are sometimes confused and used interchangeably because people who share a national origin may also belong to the same race.[4] Due to this, xenophobia is usually distinguished by opposition to foreign culture.[4]”

    See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenophobia

    • Perhaps, we should all ask ourselves if there is a war against Christians, and Christianity, going on in this country?

      And if that be so, whether we are going to remain silent and let it happen, or will we stand up and defend peoples’ right to practice their own faith, rather than be attacked and slandered for it by others, who want to strip people of faith of their reputations and their rights by virtue of their faith? And their public declaration of their faith, not to mention their practice of that faith?

      Another words:

      Are we now going to participate by our silence or actions in our nation’s trend back toward the savage times of Henry VIII and Sir Thomas More?

  7. We should not be surprised that Republicans and Democrats choose SCC judges from their own ranks. (Think Clint Miller and Ted Morrison.) The current chairman of the SCC is Mark Christie. He did not have any utility or other regulatory background when he was elected. He came to state government with George Allen. He worked in Allen’s policy office and later was chief aide to William Howell, Speaker of the House, when he was elected to the SCC. He will now be joined by another alum of the Allen administration, Patricia West. She was an assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Virginia Beach when she was named by Allen to head what was then called the Department of Youth and Family Services. (Within a year, she proposed changing the name to the Department of Juvenile Justice.) By the way, her former W&M law school classmate, Jerry Kilgore, had been named Secretary of Public Safety by Allen.

    As much as I hate to admit it, Mark Christie seems to have grown into the SCC job and seems to be a proponent of the SCC’s regulatory role. (This is just an assumption based on the recent activities and decisions of the Commission. This is an area to which I have not paid much attention.) Although I did not agree with Trish West (as she was known then) on many things, she is smart and is a pleasant person. The more I think about it, I am coming to the conclusion that it might be good to have someone who does not have all the background and has not already formed her opinions on matters. After all, the General Assembly could have chosen a long-time lobbyist for Dominon.

    • I do not know Trish West at all, other than from what I have have read on this blog. However, I tend to agree with you Dick, and would add that:

      1. Her long and distinguished experience in the law, particularly her experience in judging equities impacting real people, as a judge is a quality that is much needed now in judging these sorts of regulatory matters at hand.

      2. She obviously is a person of high intellectual ability given her real success in the real world, including after her being the first in her family to attend college.

      3. She obviously too leans heavily toward trying to solve real problems afflicting real people, particularly the vulnerable in our society, protecting them from harm, healing and helping those in need, and doing so in a principled very hands on real way. In short, as a rate payer, I would trust this “Judge.”

      4. Demonizing people simply because of their political party, and/or their religious faith, should not be rewarded, but should be called out and rejected where and when ever possible. Otherwise, our democratic form of government will collapse.

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