Miyares Wants Authority to Override Commonwealth’s Attorneys If Requested by Law Enforcement

Miyares holds press conference


Attorney general-elect Jason Miyares wants the General Assembly to authorize him to get involved in local prosecution if the top local law enforcement officer says the Commonwealth’s attorney isn’t doing their job. In a press conference Thursday, Miyares specifically called out progressive prosecutors in northern Virginia.

“Right now, the way it works is if a sitting Commonwealth’s attorney requests it, we can come in and prosecute a case on their behalf,” Miyares said. “We’re going to be seeking a legislative change, and the governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has already indicated that he would sign that into law.”

He said, “A bill that if the chief law enforcement officer in a jurisdiction, either the chief of police or the sheriff, makes a request because the Commonwealth’s attorney is not doing their job, then I’m going to do their job for them, and I’m thinking specifically of some of the so-called social justice Commonwealth’s attorneys that have been elected, particularly in northern Virginia.”

Several Commonwealth’s attorneys have begun practicing a new style of prosecution includes not enforcing specific laws, or seeking less harsh outcomes for defendants. In Northern Virginia specifically, in 2019 liberal super donors helped elect Buta Biberaj (D-Loudoun), Parisa Dehghani-Tafti (D-Arlington), Steve Descano (D-Fairfax). Although they’re not the only prosecutors in Virginia who align with the new prosecutor philosophy, they are the most high profile, and are facing recall efforts.

The law would set up potential political battles between law enforcement and prosecutors in localities including Loudoun County, whose conservative Sheriff Mike Chapman appeared with Miyares at his press conference.

In his speech, Miyares highlighted a shift in ideology for the office of the what he called the “top cop.”

Miyares said, “We are going to have a little bit of a shift of focus in the office. Attorney General Herring was very vocal about the fact that he turned the office into a progressive powerhouse. Those are his words not mine. And I campaigned and went to the voters of Virginia asking them to hire me, and one of that was I wanted to get it shifted back to more public safety and a law enforcement focus.”

Miyares called the expanded attorney general authority bill a “major legislative initiative.” It’s not clear how a bill that accomplishes what Miyares describes would pass in the Democrat-controlled Senate or even get out of committee.

Heritage Foundation Legal Fellow Zach Smith is critical of the progressive prosecutor movement. According to Smith, the criminal justice system depends on prosecutors doing their best to get a strong conviction, and by refusing to enforce certain laws, they are usurping the authority of the legislature.

He said nationally, the dynamic of attorneys general being in political conflict with prosecutors is a little unusual, but when that does happen, it’s not uncommon for the attorney general to try to step in.

“Typically the attorney general’s office focuses cases with potentially more of a statewide implication, and in some states cases where the local [district attorney] is conflicted off of the case, but at the end of the day both the local prosecutor and the state attorney general are still exercising the power of the state to enforce that state’s criminal laws,” he said. “They’re both exercising the executive branch power on behalf of the state of Virginia. I don’t see any issue in having that be reallocated if there’s a need for that.”

He said that Miyares’ election was just the biggest example of pushback against progressive prosecutors in Tuesday’s elections.

“I think after the elections this week in many jurisdictions around the country we saw kind of a rebuke of this notion of progressive prosecution. We saw in Long Island, several more conservative prosecutors elected to office. Out in Seattle, we saw the Seattle city attorney move over into Republican hands, a more traditional view of that office’s role there,” Smith said.

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Miyares’ press conference” by WSLS 10.






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