by Paul Goldman
I write today to put the abortion debate in its proper Virginia political, social, and legal contexts.
The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution banned not only slavery but also “involuntary servitude.” “While the general spirit of the phrase ‘involuntary servitude’ is easily comprehended, the exact range of conditions it prohibits is harder to define,” declared the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Kozminski. The decision in United States v. Shackney said the ban on involuntary servitude “was to abolish all practices … having some of the incidents of slavery.” One of those practices, I will argue in this column, was depriving enslaved women the right to end unwanted pregnancies.
Given sympathetic comments by the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority to antiabortion efforts in recent litigation, the nation’s top constitutional scholars say the Court intends to use the Mississippi case argued earlier this year to give state legislature’s wide new latitude to restrict “the right to choose” established by Roe v Wade nearly fifty years ago. The intentions of Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin and his allies, including Democratic Senator Joe Morrissey, remain to be seen. But it is difficult to imagine that the publicly proclaimed foes of abortion will miss this opportunity.
I believe that Governor Ralph Northam and the White Boys Club now running the General Assembly have a moral obligation to call a Special Session to stop such an effort. Continue reading
by Paul Goldman
Virginia is on track to hold an unconstitutional, illegal election this November 2. The Governor knows it. The Lieutenant Governor knows it. The Attorney General knows it; indeed, he is in court fighting my effort as the lawyer for the defendants in Goldman v Northam, et al, which is a federal action against the Governor and the Virginia Board of Elections. (The case is number 3:21 – cv – 00420 and all the documents can be found in the federal court PACER system, free to all Virginians).
The upcoming November elections for the House of Delegates are flat-out unconstitutional. The constitutionality was decided in a previous federal case in Virginia (Cosner v. Dalton, et al, 52 F. Supp. 350 (E.D. Va. 1981). The defendants were John Dalton, then Governor of Virginia, and the top officers of the of Elections. In Cosner, the federal court merely applied the law as first articulated in the seminal case of Reynolds v Simms (377 U.S. 533). In 1964, the United States Supreme Court had declared the equal protection clause of the 14th applicable to the apportionment of the districts in state legislatures.
“Simply stated, an individual’s right to vote for state legislators is unconstitutionally impaired when its weight is in a substantial fashion diluted when compared with voters of citizens living in other parts of the state.” Reynolds at 568.
In the ensuing decades, Attorneys General of Virginia and their counterparts in other states have been in federal courts around the country trying to define the term “in a substantial fashion” as a statistical marker for legal purposes. Legendary Virginian Henry Howell, the leading anti-Byrd Democrat at the statewide election level, became the first in Virginia to put the Reynold’s decision to a constitutional test in the case of Mahan v Howell, 410 U.S. 315 (1973). Continue reading