Monday, September 30, 2013

Gay Marriage and the Law in Virginia: Part II

When the United States v. Windsor decision came down I posted up an article clarifying the state of the law in Virginia about gay marriage.

Today, I read a Washington Post article that said Virginia voters banned gay marriage in 2006.  Last week, Ken Cucinnelli attempted to chastise Terry McAuliffe in a debate by arguing that the Governor would not have to sign off on ban on gay marriage - both are wrong and this error continues to crop up in the press and public discussions. 

Gay marriage was prohibited in the Commonwealth by statute in 1975 when § 20-45.2 of the Code of Virginia was enacted.  It said:
§ 20-45.2. Marriage between persons of same sex.
A marriage between persons of the same sex is prohibited.
Virginia was the second state in the United States to specifically ban gay marriage following Maryland in 1973. 

Although my Lexis-Nexis subscription does not go back to 1975, I suspect that this legislation came about due to publicity about efforts by a gay couple in Colorado to force the government to recognize their marriage.  Interestingly, one of the plaintiff's recently died and his obituary is here

Here's a video of an interview of the Clerk who issued the six same sex marriage licenses in March, 1975.  Interestingly, she pointed out that because the Colorado code did not prohibit her from issuing the license, she was permitted to proceed. 

In 1975, there was also an effort to legalize gay marriage by Councilman Arrington Dixon in Washington, D.C.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Governor and Attorney General Should Practice What They Preach

Clarence Gideon
This year, we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright and the actual enforcement of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.  Clarence Gideon was charged with felony grand larceny for allegedly stealing some cigarettes and cash from a closed pool hall.  He requested counsel, was denied, convicted, and sentenced to five years imprisonment.  

He appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on his own without an attorney and March 18, 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled he was entitled to counsel before he could be convicted.  On retrial, he was acquitted. 

Fifty years after Gideon, here is what the Commonwealth of Virginia pays the attorneys for people who are actually charged with crimes:
  • $120 - Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Criminal Case
  • $120 - Adult Misdemeanor in General District Court
  • $1,235 - Felony Punishable by 20+ Years
  • $445 - All other Felonies
  • $158 - Adult Misdemeanor in Circuit Court
Don't believe me?  Click on this link for the chart.  There are waivers for these fees, but they must be justified and approved by the Courts.  Plus, the fund for the waivers runs out of money each budget cycle.

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that Governor McDonnell and his staff have now run up $144,000 in legal bills being defended by Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott at up to $250/hour and that taxpayers have incurred $100,000 and counting for other state employees are being defended by Baker & McKenzie at up to $495/hour.  No one has been charged with anything - yet. 

Setting aside the issue of why these services were not bid out to the public like most other taxpayer funded contracts, I'm not clear why the Governor and his staff get taxpayer funded representation from gold-plated law firms when no one has even been charged with a crime or is even facing jail time while counsel for ordinary indigent Virginians' facing actual long prison terms with actual filed charges get about $10/hour.

As the birthplace of the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the Bill of Rights, we should be ashamed.  In addition, the Governor - a former prosecutor - and the Attorney General know better. If they believe that Virginia's system meets constitutional muster, they should step up to the plate and practice what they preach. 

The Commonwealth does not fund criminal lawyers until charges are filed and does not pay $250 or $495/hour.  They should pick up the tab.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Status of Mulligan Road and U.S. 1 Improvements

This is an exciting time for U.S. 1. 

This morning, I received an update from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on the construction of Mulligan Road/Jeff Todd Way and the improvements to U.S. 1 through Fort Belvoir.

First, Mulligan Road/Jeff Todd Way is scheduled to be opened in May of 2014.  The most significant obstacle to opening the road is the completion of the intersection with Telegraph Road which is also being widened at the same time.  The road cannot be opened until that widening is complete.  The road is also being construction at the same time utilities are being relocated which is unusual and has created logistical challenges.  Relief is coming if you live in 22309.

Second, next week there will be a public hearing on revised designs for the segment of U.S. 1 through Fort Belvoir which is being funded with a $180 million grant secured by Congressman Jim Moran.  The FHWA has divided the road into five segments.  Roughly speaking, they are (A) the segment around Pohick Church, (B) the segment along Davidson Field, (C) the segment around Pohick Village, (D) the segment from the railroad bridge up to the Pence Gate, and (E) the Woodlawn segment. 

The public hearing will involve designs for segments B and D.  The hearing will not be about the status of Woodlawn Stables.  The other segments involve more extensive design discussions, historic property analysis, public hearings, and/or right of way acquisition.  The entire project is scheduled for completion in 2015.  I was excited to see that the new design includes bike lanes, a walking trail, sidewalks, and a right of way reserved for transit.   Here is the meeting information:

U.S. 1 Fort Belvoir Improvements Public Hearing
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
South County Government Center
8350 Richmond Highway
Alexandria,VA 22309

Finally, the Department of Rail and Public Transit (DRPT) has created a website and scheduled it's first hearing on the Route 1 Multimodal Alternatives Analysis Study.  Here is that information.

First Public Hearing on U.S. 1 Multimodal Analysis Study
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
6:00 to 9:00 p.m.
South County Government Center
8350 Richmond Highway
Alexandria,VA 22309

We are seeing real progress on U.S. 1.