Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill on Wednesday requiring judges to dismiss cases when both prosecutors and defense attorneys agree. The bill was born after Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Greg Underwood (D) announced that he would not be prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana cases, according to The Virginian-Pilot. The bill is an example of a national push to allow prosecutors discretion to ignore whole sections of law, according to Heritage Foundation Legal Fellow and former prosecutor Zack Smith.Read More
Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales is on the steering committee of “Our Black Party,” a political organization to defund the police. Morales has stated explicitly that she wants to defund the police and shrink the criminal justice system.
The Code of Virginia states that Commonwealth’s Attorneys are “a part of the department of law enforcement of the county or city in which [s]he is elected or appointed.” It is unclear whether Morales’s leadership within Our Black Party conflicts with her duties as a Commonwealth attorney.
Eight Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorneys pledged that they will not enforce any laws criminalizing abortions. The pledge was signed by over 60 prosecutors and state attorneys general and expresses concern over attempts to pass laws limiting abortion. The Fair and Just Prosecution (FJP) organization published the pledge on October 14, as Congress holds confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett.Read More
A judge rejected a subpoena calling Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales to testify in the Lucas case Monday. As a result, the case goes to Morales’ office and she will take the lead on the prosecution. Lucas and 18 others charged by the Portsmouth Police Department (PPD) will have their next hearing on November 19.
Judge Claire Cardwell ruled that the Portsmouth Police can not call Morales as a witness; some of Lucas’ supporters viewed the subpoena as an attempt to keep Morales out of the prosecution. In a statement, Morales’ lawyer said, “The judge said that the police department is to transmit its investigative file to Ms. Morales. Ms. Morales will prosecute all of the matters under her constitutional authority as the elected Commonwealth’s Attorney.”Read More