Cuccinelli announces settlement with Salahi’s Journey for the Cure charity

Charity made false statements, failed to keep true financial records, solicited without being registered with the state

RICHMOND (February 28, 2012) – Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli announced today that a settlement has been reached with the Journey for the Cure Foundation and its chairman, Tareq Salahi, for allegedly making false statements and submitting inaccurate financial statements to the commonwealth’s overseer of charities, among other offenses.

Journey for the Cure Foundation (JCF) is a Fauquier County-based fundraising organization that was formed to support individuals struggling with diseases such as multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, leukemia, and lymphoma. JCF would conduct fund raisers to raise money for charities that helped individuals afflicted with those diseases.

According to the attorney general’s complaint filed with the settlement, JCF allegedly violated the Virginia Solicitation of Contributions (VSOC) law by:

• using misleading statements in connection with solicitations for charitable donations. Specifically, JCF claimed on its Internet web site that “[p]roudly, 100% of our financing goes directly to find the cure and we have no paid staff.” Based on bank records obtained through the Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs’ (OCA) investigation, the attorney general alleged that only 33% of JCF’s expenditures in 2007, and 0.6% of its expenditures in 2008 went directly to disease prevention-related charities. Significant amounts were instead spent on fund raising overhead;

• knowingly making false statements in a registration statement filed with the OCA, among other things, submitting inaccurate financial statements to OCA as part of its registration statement;

• soliciting charitable contributions from the general public from 2004 to 2009 without first being registered with OCA;

• failing to keep true fiscal records in accordance with the VSOC law; and

• failing to provide OCA with required financial statements when it ceased soliciting charitable contributions in the commonwealth in 2010.

The attorney general further alleged that Salahi himself violated the VSOC law by:

• certifying in a solicitation notice filed with OCA that JCF was registered with the state office when it was not;

• falsely certifying on JCF’s 2008 registration statement that JCF had no financial history; and

• certifying inaccurate numbers for charitable contributions on JCF’s 2009 registration statement.

The settlement includes the following key terms:

(1) The commonwealth is granted a permanent injunction prohibiting JCF and Salahi from engaging in any further violations of the VSOC law;

(2) The commonwealth is granted a monetary judgment against JCF in the amount of $25,000 for civil penalties for JCF’s violations of the VSOC law;

(3) The commonwealth is granted a monetary judgment against Salahi in the amount of $2,500 for civil penalties for Salahi’s alleged violations of the VSOC law; and

(4) The commonwealth is granted a monetary judgment against JCF in the amount of $7,500 to compensate the commonwealth for its attorneys’ fees and costs.

The attorney general was able to obtain injunctive relief directly against Salahi, not just the charity. If Salahi were to form another charitable organization and then commit similar violations, the injunction could make him subject to civil or criminal contempt of court charges, in addition to further civil penalties.

In December 2009, the OCA announced an investigation into the practices of JCF. In May 2011, OCA referred its investigative findings to the attorney general for potential enforcement action.

The settlement, which is in the form of a consent judgment, has been filed for approval with the Fauquier County Circuit Court.

A copy of this news release may be found on the attorney general’s web site here:

Join the conversation about this on Google+ here:

Published in: on February 28, 2012 at 1:02 pm  Comments (5)  

Republicans says main focus isn’t social issues

Facing increased national scrutiny, state GOP downplays radical bills

By Brad Fulton
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Facing mounting criticism and increased national attention for a spate of legislative initiatives of a social nature, House Republicans say they’re still focused on jobs, education, government reform and public safety – and dispute Democratic charges that they’re pushing a “social issues” agenda – even though by their own count less than half their bills this session deal with economic, public safety, public education and governmental reform.

Members of the House Republican Caucus discussed their priorities after “crossover day,” the mid-February, mid-session deadline for each legislative chamber to act on its own bills.

“Of 603 bills passed in the House, over 42 percent have dealt with issues of jobs, education, government reform and safety,” said House Speaker William Howell of Fredericksburg. “These are the four main points of the Republican Party.”

Democrats have accused Republicans of being obsessed with social issues such as restricting abortion and gay rights and expanding gun rights. They point to measures such as House Bill 1, which would grant “personhood” rights to a fertilized egg at the moment of conception. Some critics say HB 1 could outlaw abortion and even some contraceptive methods, but the bill’s proponents disagree.

At a press conference Wednesday, House Republicans acknowledged that bills involving social issues have received a lot of press coverage and commentary. But they said those bills are a small – albeit far reaching for individual freedoms – part of the GOP agenda.

“I think the proof in the pudding is in the fact that less than 2.5 percent of bills introduced by Republicans have been social issues,” Howell said.

GOP leaders displayed a pie chart showing that only 2.2 percent of the bills approved by the House concerned social issues. In contrast:

42.3 percent concerned education, government reform, public safety and jobs.

12.3 percent involved judicial issues.

10.8 percent address local matters.

And the rest concerned transportation, energy, the environment, health care, veterans and other issues.

One of the education-related bills would end the tenure-like system for public school teachers. Under House Bill 576, new teachers and principals would receive three-year contracts instead of continuing contracts – making it easier to fire poor performers.

“It’s going to be a good thing for good teachers, and bad teachers may find that the profession is not for them,” said Delegate Richard Bell, R-Staunton, who sponsored HB 576.

In the Senate, Republicans also touted their record this session.

Of the 684 Senate bills, 403 were approved by the upper chamber by crossover, the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus said.

“Our members should be proud of what we have accomplished so far this session,” said Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment of Williamsburg.

“We have approved important measures that will spur economic growth, streamline our government, and improve the quality of education in Virginia. And we have accomplished this by administering the legislative process fairly and transparently, allowing bills to be presented and discussed by the senators in full committee.”

The Senate approved several components of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s agenda, including his call to reduce and streamline the state’s boards and commissions. It also passed measures aimed at spurring economic development and creating jobs.

“The wide range of bills that were considered and approved is particularly impressive,” said Sen. Ryan McDougle of Mechanicsville, who chairs the Senate Republican Caucus.

“Bills on jobs and economic development, education, public safety, government reform, health care, and veterans’ affairs have all been approved by the Senate and are headed to the House. We are on track to have one of the most productive sessions in recent memory.”

Each house now will take up legislation passed by the other chamber. Moreover, the General Assembly must turn its attention to crafting a state budget for the 2012-14 biennium.

The session is scheduled to end March 10.

Published in: on February 22, 2012 at 10:50 pm  Comments (1)  

Jails can continue to shackle inmates giving birth

Legislature fails to act on policy to ease constraints on female prisoners

By Zack Budryk
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Local jails and regional prisons in Virginia can continue to shackle female inmates during childbirth – a practice that Delegate Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, says is appalling.

Hope sponsored a bill this legislative session to prohibit the shackling of women prisoners while in labor or giving birth. However, the bill is dead for this session after failing to make it out of a subcommittee last week.

But Hope isn’t giving up on getting correctional facilities to stop the practice.

“Having been the father of three girls, I couldn’t understand why they felt the need to do that,” he said.

“And as I dug into the policies and what motivated the prisons and the local and regional jails to do this, [I found that] they really didn’t have a policy; they just shackled everyone … I thought there ought to be at least some law, something codified, that says they should use the least restrictive restraints … and use their discretion to make sure that safety’s not at risk.”

Katherine Greenier of the Virginia ACLU said the health risks posed by shackled delivery are well documented.

“Pregnancy can create problems with balance that are exacerbated by shackling,” said Greenier, whose Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project lobbied extensively for House Bill 836 before its demise.

“Leg and wrist restraints increase the likelihood that a pregnant woman could trip, and they compromise her ability to brace against a fall, risking miscarriage and injury.”

Ramey Connelly said she finds the practice abhorrent regardless of the health risks.

“I … believe that shackling women during labor is a violation of the right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said Connelly, a women’s rights activist in Richmond.

“The process of birth is a natural one, and women are physiologically inclined to move during labor. There is extensive documentation that, given the freedom to do so, women will move into birthing positions which are most conducive to a safe, healthy labor and childbirth.”

The Virginia ACLU was joined in lobbying for the bill by several women’s rights and prison reform groups. The ACLU, which is known for supporting liberal causes, also found an unlikely ally: the Family Foundation of Virginia, which ordinarily supports conservative and religious causes.

Hope said it was natural for his bill to attract support from groups with different political views.

“If a woman wants to have a pregnancy, and she wants it to be carried out, then we need to make sure that it’s carried out in a safe and healthy manner. That’s why [pro-choice groups] are at the table,” Hope said.

“Virginia Family Foundation’s at the table for similar reasons. They see the pregnancy as a life, and we need to make sure that that pregnancy is protected so it is safe, and it is healthy, and everyone’s happy.”

HB 836 had been assigned to the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee. On Feb. 9, a subcommittee of that panel tabled the bill. As a result, the full House of Delegates did not have an opportunity to act on the measure. Any bill that did not clear its house of origin by Tuesday was declared dead for the session.

Hope said he plans to reintroduce the issue next session. In the meantime, he said, he is exploring non-legislative ways of achieving the same goal.

“The legislation that I introduced is already the procedure in the [state] prison system,” Hope said. “However, at the Board of Corrections level, in the regional jails … that’s not policy yet.”

“They put out a notice for rulemaking in January, and I suspect that that will be played out over the next 12 to 18 months. When the regulatory process plays out, I’m going to be watching that process closely to make sure that there are not so many holes in [shackling regulations] that this doesn’t become like Swiss cheese.”

Connelly said it was encouraging to hear the issue raised in the first place.

“It is always beneficial to keep the conversation going. That is one of the many tragedies of the ‘correctional’ system – that the people within them are locked away and essentially forgotten,” she said.

“We cannot let these conversations die, because when they do, the people who are suffering these monumental injustices fade away into the background.”
More about House Bill 836

Here is the full text of the bill:

“No state, regional, local, or juvenile correctional facility shall use restraints on any prisoner who is pregnant during labor, transport to a medical facility, delivery, or postpartum recovery unless the warden, superintendent, or jailor finds there is a compelling reason to believe that the prisoner poses serious harm to herself or others, is a flight risk, or cannot be reasonably restrained by other means. Such facility shall use the least restrictive restraints necessary on any inmate in the second or third trimester of pregnancy.”

To comment on the legislation, visit the Richmond Sunlight

Published in: on February 22, 2012 at 10:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

More than 1,000 protest ‘Personhood’, ultrasound bills

Largest public demonstration at state capital in quarter century

By Zack Budryk
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – More than 1,000 people turned out at the Capitol on Jan. 20th to silently protest a wave of legislation that they claim undermines women’s reproductive rights.

The demonstration focused largely on two measures: House Bill 1, which would give the legal status of a human being to a fertilized egg, and HB 462, which would require a trans-vaginal ultrasound before undergoing an abortion.

Both bills have passed the House of Delegates and are being considered by the Senate Education and Health Committee.

“We want the state legislators to know that we are angry, and we will not stand idly by as our rights to privacy and access to health care are eroded; we will not be told we do not know what is best for us, or that access to care should be limited to those who can pay,” said Sarah Okolita, who helped organize the event.

“We will not have medically unnecessary procedures forced upon us. We will not give up our right to plan our families,” said Okolita, a graduate student in social work at Virginia Commonwealth University. “These are distractions. Virginia needs economic growth and recovery, not repressive, regressive and dangerous control over our bodies.”

Another organizer, Jordan Romeo, a global studies and international social justice major at VCU, said he hoped the rally would send a message to the General Assembly.

“We have been telling people to contact their legislators, to call their legislators, to write emails, to be a presence at the Capitol as much as possible,” Romeo said.

Eileen Davis, a health care provider, said that the wording of HB 1 had potentially dangerous ramifications.

Scope of legislation

“The law of unintended consequences is all over this bill,” Davis said. “Women who have to take birth control or have a barrier method such as an IUD because they’re on cancer treatment, according to this bill, would be breaking the law.

“This bill says that women who have migraine headaches cannot take birth control pills … This is a law that was written by people that don’t understand health care, medical care and the medical consequences of it.”

Delegate Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, the sponsor of HB 1, has disputed such comments as fear-mongering. The bill states that “Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as affecting lawful assisted conception.” (WCR managing editor’s note: Typically, Marshall’s comment ignored the issue at hand – limits on medical treatment and restrictions on birth control.)

Virginia would become the first state in the nation to approve “personhood” at conception. Mississippi and one other state rejected such legislation in voter referendums in recent years.

The demonstration began at 11 a.m. as participants silently lined the walkways on the Capitol grounds and linked arms.

Around 12:30 p.m., the protesters dispersed before reassembling at the Bell Tower for a rally. The rally’s featured speakers included various legislators, as well as activists such as Ramey Connelly of the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project and Victoria Bragunier of the Richmond chapter of the National Organization for Women.

“Virginia is better than this,” Delegate Alfonso Lopez, D-Arlington, told the crowd. “We represent something better. We have for 400 years. Let’s not go backwards. This is not what Virginia is.”

Participants and organizers said they were pleased with the turnout for the demonstration, particularly after Sunday’s snow.

“We were talking with the Capitol Police here,” said Vicki Yeroian, president of VCU Young Democrats and an advocate intern with Planned Parenthood. “And one of them was kind enough to let us know that in the 27 years that they’ve been working here, they have never seen a demonstration as big as the one that we’ve had today.”

Romeo said the size of the crowd reflected how strongly people feel about the issues.

“I think the turnout has been really wonderful,” he said. “I think the fact that the legislation is so absurd and so ridiculous [means] people are angry, which I think is a really good power to make people get involved.”

Published in: on February 22, 2012 at 10:43 pm  Comments (3)  

Divided senate OKs help for private schools

Repub Lt. governor pushes controversial funding initiative through

By Zack Budryk
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – In yet another bill that divided Republicans and Democrats down the aisle, on Feb. 17th the Virginia Senate passed legislation to provide tax credits for individuals and businesses that fund scholarships for low and middle-income students to attend parochial and private schools.

Senate Bill 131, sponsored by Sen. William Stanley, R-Moneta, would provide a 65 percent tax credit for individuals and corporations that donate money for such scholarships. The state would cap the total tax credits at $25 million per year. Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-26th, sponsored a bill capping the tax credits at $50 million.

SB 131 was debated on the Senate floor for nearly an hour. Then all 20 Republican senators voted for it; all 20 Democrats voted against it. The bill passed when Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Republican, cast the tie-breaking vote.

Proponents of such “school choice” legislation assert that it would give students access to a quality of education that their families otherwise could not afford.

Low income help?

Under the bill, scholarships supported by tax credits must go “only to students whose family’s annual household income is not in excess of 300 percent of the current poverty guidelines or eligible students with a disability.”

That means a student from a family of four with an annual income of $69,150 would qualify for a scholarship. (Under the federal government’s 2012 guidelines, the poverty level for such a family is $23,050.)

The tax credit program would fund about 7,300 private-school scholarships, according to an analysis of SB 131. The bill would establish “Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits.” These credits would go to taxpayers “making monetary donations to scholarship foundations” approved by the Virginia Department of Education.

State funding of religion?

Senate Democrats condemned the bill, saying it amounted to taxpayer subsidies for religious schools and a violation of the principle of separation of church and state.

Sen. J. Chapman Petersen, D-Fairfax, argued that the bill would violate the Virginia Constitution, which forbids “any appropriation of public funds, personal property, or real estate to any church or sectarian society.”

“The purpose behind that [article] in our 1971 constitution is quite clear: We don’t appropriate to private entities; we give the money to public entities,” Petersen said. “That’s why we’re a public body.”

Sen. Janet Howell, D-Reston, said SB 131 would undermine the public school system.

“I think if you were to look at any history of this county … the reason why people have been lifted out of poverty is the public school system,” Howell said. She said the bill is part of an effort by Republicans to sap resources from public education.

“Right now it’s a trickle of blood,” Howell said. “But if we keep this up, this will be a hemorrhaging of blood from our public schools.”

Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Charlottesville, expressed similar sentiments.

“Our public education system has issues; it needs more funding. But what we don’t need to do is run away from it,” Deeds said. “That’s what this bill does.”

Republican social agenda

“We have heard for quite a while from many that it takes a community to raise and educate a child. And paradoxically, the burden has been placed on the state to do just that with taxpayer dollars managed by a distant government agency,” Stanley said. “This bill will initiate the real change needed to encourage investment by offering solutions tailored to solve specific problems as determined by those closest to the situation.”

Gov. Bob McDonnell has long been a proponent of such legislation. The Republican governor, who headlined a rally for “school choice” earlier in the month, praised the vote.

“Virginia students deserve a world-class education regardless of their ZIP code and socio-economic status. Public and private-sector entities must come together to provide every possible opportunity for students to get the education they need to fill the good jobs available in the 21st century,” McDonnell said in a statement following the vote.

“This legislation will increase the ability of nonprofit organizations to provide education improvement scholarships so low-income students or students with disabilities can attend the nonpublic school of their choice. It is a common-sense measure that will spur private support in educating the leaders of tomorrow and will give students a new opportunity to learn the skills they need to be successful in the future.”

SB 131 is the latest in a series of bills this session concerning hot-button issues for social conservatives; others include abortion, voter identification and drug testing for welfare recipients. This was the 10th tie-breaker Bolling has cast.

On Tuesday, the House passed its own bill providing tax credits for private-school scholarships. The 64-35 vote also was along party lines.

House Bill 321, sponsored by Delegate Jimmie Massie, R-Richmond, would support scholarships for students eligible for the free and reduced-price lunch program. (A family of four qualifies for that program if its annual income is below $41,348.)

Under the House legislation, corporations would receive a tax credit equal to 70 percent of their donations to the scholarships.

On the Web

To monitor or comment on Senate Bill 131, visit the Richmond Sunlight website:

Here are the 2012 poverty guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Under SB 131, scholarships supported by state tax credits could go to students from families that make up to three times the poverty levels:

How They Voted

Here is how the Senate voted Friday on “SB 131 Income tax, corporate; tax credits for donations to organizations, etc.”

Floor: 02/17/12 Senate: Read third time and passed Senate (20-Y 20-N)

YEAS – Black, Blevins, Carrico, Garrett, Hanger, Martin, McDougle, McWaters, Newman, Norment, Obenshain, Reeves, Ruff, Smith, Stanley, Stosch, Stuart, Vogel, Wagner, Watkins – 20.

NAYS – Barker, Colgan, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Herring, Howell, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Marsh, McEachin, Miller, J.C., Miller, Y.B., Northam, Petersen, Puckett, Puller, Saslaw – 20.

Mr. President (Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling): YEA

Published in: on February 22, 2012 at 10:38 pm  Comments (19)  

Governor urges revisiting of ultra sound bill

A pregnant woman, who is expecting twins, at the Women's Clinic of Leipzig's Karl Marx University. Before the birth, specialist Dr. Renaldo Faber and his colleagues used the Doppler ultrasound method to check the red blood cells in mother and child. The hospital has a perinatal center specializing in the care of premature babies (including twins and multiple births).

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

On Feb. 22nd Governor Bob McDonnell urged caution and a revisiting of mandatory ultrasound legislation (SB 484) proposed in this legislative session of the Virginia General Assembly.

Legislation on the table mandates intrusive, internal, physical procedures invading a woman’s body to assure she can see medical imaging of her fetus prior to a decision on abortion.

The governor qualified his statement by asserting his “pro-life” political and moral leanings. However, he also addressed growing concerns that legislation championed by fellow Republicans in this session crossed personal boundaries not justified by medical necessity (nor dare we suggest, legislative authority).

“Over the course of my 20-year career in elected office, I have been glad to play a leading role in putting in place common-sense policies that protect and defend innocent human life in the Commonwealth. One of those bills was Virginia’s informed consent statute, of which I was the chief patron in the House of Delegates, finally seeing its passage in 2001 …

“Over the past days I have discussed the specific language of the proposed legislation with other governors, physicians, attorneys, legislators, advocacy groups, and citizens. It is apparent that several amendments to the proposed legislation are needed to address various medical and legal issues which have arisen.

“It is clear that in the majority of cases, a routine external, transabdominal ultrasound is sufficient to meet the bills stated purpose, that is, to determine gestational age.

“I have come to understand that the medical practice and standard of care currently guide physicians to use other procedures to find the gestational age of the child, when abdominal ultrasounds cannot do so. Determining gestational age is essential for legal reasons, to know the trimester of the pregnancy in order to comply with the law, and for medical reasons as well.

“Thus, having looked at the current proposal, I believe there is no need to direct by statute that further invasive ultrasound procedures be done. Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state. No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure.

“For this reason, I have recommended to the General Assembly a series of amendments to this bill. I am requesting that the General Assembly amend this bill to explicitly state that no woman in Virginia will have to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound involuntarily.

“I am asking the General Assembly to state in this legislation that only a transabdominal, or external, ultrasound will be required to satisfy the requirements to determine gestational age. Should a doctor determine that another form of ultrasound may be necessary to provide the necessary images and information that will be an issue for the doctor and the patient. The government will have no role in that medical decision.

“I have requested other amendments that help clarify the purposes of the bill and reflect a better understanding of prevailing medical practices. It is my hope that the members of the General Assembly will act favorably upon these recommendations from our office. We will await their action prior to making any further comments on this matter.”

Published in: on February 22, 2012 at 10:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Correction: Story misprint

Due to a production mistake, the story on page 34 of issue 4, the Late February edition, was misprinted.
You can also download the corrected PDF file here:
Tederick allegations

School officials reply to Tederick allegations
Confidentiality, not subterfuge pointed to for lack of detail on food policy

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

After being blasted by local Republican activist Matt Tederick on Feb. 9th for keeping the alleged motivation for a December policy change on the availability of food in the classroom a secret, we asked Warren County School Board Chairman Roy Boyles and Superintendent of Schools Pamela McInnis to reply.

On Feb. 9th in typical style, Tederick accused school officials of dishonesty, a cover up, as well as accusing the school board of rubber stamping a far-reaching legal settlement without adequate public or school board input.

As for any previous silence on the matter of an agreement reached with any parent of any former or current students that Tederick may have been alluding to, McInnis said, “I signed a confidentiality agreement to enter into an early complaint resolution for the complaint filed. I have honored the confidentiality agreement. Mr. Tederick spoke at the February 9, 2012 School Board Meeting during public participation. I will present a report to the Board at its February 23, 2012 work session on the task assigned to me by the Board. The assigned task was to research how the regulation was being applied across the school division and to research how policy JHCF, Student Wellness, is applied across the division.”

School Board Chairman Roy Boyles added that McInnis had the “full support” of the school board. He added that the superintendent did “a good job” of keeping the school board “informed about issues that come up.”

Boyles added that he believed Tederick was asking the school board to do things related to disclosure that “would be in violation” of aspects of the code of conduct that the school board members agreed to in writing at their meeting of Jan. 9.

“I also will not discuss individual student records or personnel files,” Boyles said when questioned about any complaint-based agreements the board or superintendent have signed off on.

“We live in a wonderful country that allows everyone to express their opinion, no matter how misdirected or political it may be. I think Mr. Tederick wants to take us back to the mid 1990’s. I for one don’t want to go back there. Our process works and helps us do what is best for kids,” Boyles added of Tederick’s public lambasting of the board and superintendent.

As reported here last issue, the policy in question prohibits staff at public schools from handing out food as a reward in the classroom and asks parents to “cooperate” by not sending food to school with their children for classroom distribution. The policy was announced in a letter sent to parents from McInnis on Dec. 1st. It has since become the subject of online posts criticizing the public school system and McInnis for “infringing upon the rights” of school children and parents for attempting to limit student access to food in the classroom for celebrations or other events.

Published in: on February 18, 2012 at 2:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Late February, 2012 edition of Warren County Report

View this document on Scribd

You can also download the original PDF file.

Press Version (80.3 MB)

Web Version (23.1 MB)

Published in: on February 17, 2012 at 4:33 am  Leave a Comment  

After brief impasse, senate will consider new judges later

Athey, Phillips find themselves in midst of partisan Assembly squabble

By Amir Vera
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Former legislators C.L. “Clay” Athey and Clarence “Bud” Phillips will have to wait a bit before they are appointed as judges in Virginia. That’s because Democrats in the Senate recently rejected Republicans’ plan to name Athey, a Republican, and Phillips, a Democrat, as new judges while reappointing 47 incumbent judges.
Democrats like Sen. Donald McEachin of Richmond insisted that the Senate abide by the long tradition of considering new judges separately from incumbents. They did not want to make exceptions just because the two new judges up for appointment were former colleagues.
“We thought it ill-advised to have them get vacant judgeships when we have not looked at the complete picture of vacant judgeships,” McEachin said. “On top of that, we told the Republicans two or three days beforehand that we thought it best to keep with the Senate practice in dealing only with incumbent judges in January.”
According to the Democrats, that is how it has always been done: Incumbent judges usually are reappointed in January; new judges are confirmed in late February. Republicans wanted to appoint the two new judges because the empty seats on the bench create problems in the judicial system.
“So there remain two vacancies that are unfilled and need to be filled,” said Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Montross. “They are having to use substitute judges to run those courts, which is a bad thing.”
However Democrats might say that is a late-in-the-game “rush to judgeship” since at least one of the two seats, the 26th Judicial Circuit that Republican Athey is poised for, has been vacant since Judge William Prosser’s resignation went into effect a year ago, about the same time Athey announced he would not seek re-election in 2011.
The Senate will take up the nominations of Athey and Phillips after Feb. 14, which is “crossover day” – the deadline for each chamber to complete work on its own legislation.
Athey, 51, is a Republican attorney from Front Royal who served in the House of Delegates from 2002 through 2011. He represented House District 18 in the Shenandoah Valley. He was nominated to be a judge for the 26th Judicial Circuit in Harrisonburg.
Phillips, 61, is a Democrat attorney from Castlewood who served in the House from 1990 through 2011. He represented House District 2, which at the time was located in the far southwest corner of Virginia. He was nominated to be a judge for the 30th General District Court in Wise.
The dispute was over House Joint Resolution 246, which contains all of the judgeship appointments.
The House unanimously adopted the resolution on Jan. 24. But when it went to the Senate, Democrats there objected – and effectively shut down the Senate for a few days.
The impasse was broken on Jan. 26 when, at the Democrats’ insistence, the Senate agreed to appoint only the incumbent judges for now.
In refusing to consider new judges in January, Democrats maintained that they were upholding tradition. But Republicans accused them of playing partisan politics. They said the Democrats were flexing their muscles because, for the first time, the Senate is evenly divided between the two parties.
“I was shocked that the Democrats refused to appoint judges, and they specifically said it was because they were unhappy with the Republicans for not agreeing to a power-share,” Stuart said.
McEachin said that in insisting on the appointment of both incumbents and new judges together, Republicans were “acting with a certain level of arrogance, that it was their way or the highway.”
“So we showed them that we were prepared to go on the highway,” McEachin said. “I am happy that they relented and returned to the traditions and practices of the General Assembly by electing the incumbent judges separately, apart from new judges.”
HJ 246 has been referred to the Senate Committee for Courts of Justice.
Included among incumbent judges who were re-appointed were General District Court Judge W. Dale Houff, 26th Judicial District, Shenandoah County/Woodstock and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Ronald Lewis Napier, 26th Judicial Circuit, Page County/Luray.

Published in: on February 9, 2012 at 2:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Correction – Vet therapy dog website

We would like to correct the website for donations to the Veterans Moving Forward organization featured in our early February edition, not on page 4, but page 18. The correct web address is – please reach out and help provide our war veterans with this valuable private-sector initiative to bring specially-trained companion dogs into their lives.

Published in: on February 6, 2012 at 3:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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