Virginia Supreme Court Dismisses Petition to Appeal in McAuliffe Signature Lawsuit

The Virginia Supreme Court refused a petition to appeal the dismissal of a lawsuit over the missing signature on Terry McAuliffe’s election paperwork. On Wednesday, attorney Peter Hansen argued in a writ panel that the Court should take up the appeal, saying that McAuliffe failed to file a valid declaration of candidacy, and that when the City of Richmond Circuit Court dismissed the case, it did so based on speculation.

“Unfortunately, the trial court effectually made up facts. There’s nothing in the evidence, nothing in the record that suggested that Mr. McAuliffe was present when he didn’t sign the declaration. There’s nothing in evidence that suggests he raised his hand as if taking an oath, and that’s what ‘sworn to under my hand’ means,” Hansen told the panel.

Read More

Virginia Redistricting Commission Adjourns Indefinitely Without Completing Any Maps

Virginia may have seen the last of its Redistricting Commission. After multiple perfect ties split along party lines on votes held over the past months, the Commission reached consensus on Wednesday to adjourn until the two co-chairs decide to reconvene the commission. The commission’s one remaining  scheduled meeting on Monday and a public hearing for Friday are canceled. The co-chairs said they would reconvene the commission if two commissioners, one from each party, were able to jointly propose a way to redistrict Virginia’s congressional maps.

Co-chair Mackenzie Babichenko (R) said, “That would give us kind of a better basis, so if Senator Barker finds someone that likes something also on the other side they can bring it to the co-chairs attention, and then we can call a meeting for us to all come and consider it. But I think the issue is that if we say that there is some place for consensus and that we can still keep working, but is that going to happen at another meeting just like this?”

Read More

After Legislative Map Failure, Virginia Redistricting Commission Has Airing of Grievances, Thinks About Congressional Maps

Tennessee Capitol building

The Virginia Redistricting Commission hasn’t made a formal decision, but it seems to be moving on after missing a Sunday deadline to complete General Assembly maps. In a virtual meeting Monday, commissioners couldn’t take any votes, but they heard preliminary presentations from the partisan legal teams about redistricting Virginia’s congressional maps. When Co-Chair Mackenzie Babichenko (R) tried to wrap up the meeting with a summary of action items for a meeting later this week, Delegate Les Adams (R-Chatham) questioned Co-Chair Greta Harris (D) status on the commission, launching what Babichencko called an “airing of grievances” from frustrated commissioners.

On Friday, Harris and two other citizen members broke quorum, ending a fraught meeting. At the time, she said, “At this point I don’t feel as though all members on the commission are sincere in their willingness to compromise and to create fair maps for the Commonwealth of Virginia. And so at that point, if I can’t believe that the people I’m supposed to work with are true and sincere, regrettably, I am done. So thank you very much for the opportunity to serve, but I will remove myself from the commission at this point.”

Read More

Poised to Miss First Deadline, Virginia Redistricting Commission Collapses

The Virginia Redistricting Commission collapsed Friday afternoon while facing a Sunday deadline to complete final maps to present to the General Assembly. The commission failed to break through partisan deadlocks on which drafts to use as a starting point, the latest in weeks of perfect party-line splits in the habitually deadlocked commission. In despair, three citizen members walked out of the meeting breaking quorum and leaving questions about the future of the commission.

Read More

Redistricting: Draft Virginia Senate Map Highlights Different Definitions of ‘Fair’

Capitol of the Commonwealth of Virginia

A new working draft of a Virginia Senate redistricting map is highlighting the question of what creating a fair map means. The working map was hammered out on Saturday in a closed-door meeting between the Democratic and Republican co-chairs, Democratic and Republican legal teams, and Democratic and Republican map-drawers.

Read More

Virginia Redistricting Commission Running Out of Time to Complete General Assembly Maps

Capitol of the Commonwealth of Virginia

The Virginia Redistricting Commission is scrambling to find more time to finalize General Assembly draft maps ahead of a series of public hearings on October 4-7. On Monday, the commission saw separate sets of draft maps proposed by the two partisan map-drawing teams. On Thursday, they saw a consensus of four Senate district maps from southwest Virginia where both teams’ proposed districts had more than 90 percent of the population in common. But Thursday’s meeting was largely occupied by debates over when to provide political data to map drawers, and about creating additional instructions about creating districts where minorities can control the vote.

As a result, with just three meetings currently scheduled before public hearings, the commission has only considered how to blend the two partisan proposals in the four easiest districts from the Senate, and has not considered how to handle the partisan House proposals.

“We need more time,” Co-chair Mackenzie Babichenko (R) said. “I think we’re going to want more time if we’re going to go through and look at all these decisions.”

Read More

Loudoun County School Board Passes Policy That Protects First Amendment Rights in Response to Teachers’ Lawsuit

The Loudoun County school board voted on a revised professional conduct policy to specifically mention “Protected Speech” and the First Amendment rights of employees.

The new policy is a response to Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) teacher Tanner Cross who went viral for his comments at a school board meeting in May, where he spoke out against the district’s gender policy and was put on administrative leave shortly afterward. On Aug. 30 the Virginia Supreme Court ruled to reinstate him, calling his removal “likely unconstitutional.”

Read More

Jury Trial Delayed in Loudoun County Trans Pronouns Lawsuit

A trial over whether teachers will be required to use their students’ preferred gender pronouns will have to wait for now. 

“A Virginia judge postponed Tuesday a trial in a lawsuit brought by three teachers challenging Loudoun County Public Schools’ policy requiring staff to use transgender students’ chosen pronouns,” The Washington Times reported. “Loudoun County Circuit Judge James E. Plowman Jr. decided to delay the trial after he granted a motion last week to let two of the teachers join the lawsuit and allow their amended complaint. He has not yet set a new date for the trial.”

Read More

Virginia Supreme Court Upholds Lower Court Decision to Reinstate Loudoun Teacher Tanner Cross

The Virginia Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s injunction to force Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) to reinstate teacher Tanner Cross. LCPS officials had asked for a review of the decision by the Loudoun County Circuit Court, saying the court was incorrect to find a likelihood of success on the merits of the case, that Cross wasn’t likely to suffer irreparable harm without the injunction, and that the court hadn’t considered the totality of the circumstances.

“We conclude that the Defendants have not established the circuit court abused its discretion in granting Cross a temporary injunction,” the Virginia Supreme Court’s Monday order states.

Read More

Conservative Virginia Supreme Court Justice Mims Retiring

Bill Mims

Virginia Supreme Court Justice William C. Mims, a Republican who earlier served as a state lawmaker and state attorney general, has announced his plans to retire from the court next spring.

Mims, who would have been eligible for reappointment in anticipation of his term ending March 31, wrote in a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam (D), House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Springfield) and Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Alexandria) that he wants to “discern other opportunities to serve” as he turns 65 next year.

Read More

Loudoun County Teacher Takes Gender Pronoun Fight to Virginia Supreme Court

After an elementary school teacher in Loudoun County was suspended for voicing his opposition to using students’ preferred gender pronouns at a school board meeting, his case might be headed to the Virginia Supreme Court. 

Tyson Langhofer, an attorney for Byron Tanner Cross who is an elementary physical education teacher in the district, has filed a brief with the state’s highest Court asking it not to hear Loudoun County’s appeal on the issue. 

Read More

Northam Seeks Artifacts for New Time Capsule at the Lee Monument, Asks City of Richmond to Not Remove Monument Avenue Pedestals

It’s thought that there is a time capsule in the pedestal of the Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond. The Virginia Supreme Court is expected to rule on whether or not the state can remove the monument, and in an announcement earlier this week Governor Ralph Northam said they will open the capsule when the monument is removed. He also invited Virginians to suggest new artifacts for a replacement time capsule to be placed at the site.

Read More

Richmond, Charlottesville Councils Consider Next Steps for Their Monuments

It’s been over eight months since Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney removed the city’s Confederate monuments to storage. In a Monday City Council meeting, City Council Interim Chief of Staff Joyce Davis announced that the Organizational Development Standing Committee would hear a resolution about the disposition of the statues. A public hearing and city council vote on the resolution is expected May 10.

Read More

Appalachian Power Company Appealing Virginia Supreme Court for Electricity Rate Increase

After the State Corporation Commission (SCC) denied Appalachian Power Company (APC) a rate increase, the company is appealing to the Virginia Supreme Court, according to a notice of appeal filed with the SCC Monday. The company requested a rate change last year, but the SCC has reiterated its denial of the request on March 26.

Read More

Mass Data Collection of License Plate Numbers Upheld by Virginia Supreme Court

The Virginia Supreme Court has ruled Fairfax County’s mass collection of vehicle license plate numbers does not violate legal privacy protections in a decision criticized by civil liberty advocates.

The Fairfax County Police Department won a lawsuit that challenged its use of automated license plate readers, which tracks times and locations of drivers. Because the court ruled the information the readers compile is not legally protected as personal, identifying information, Fairfax Police and other police departments in the commonwealth can continue to use them.

Read More

Virginia Supreme Court Rejects Northam’s Eviction Moratorium Extension Request as CDC Implements New Order

The Virginia Supreme Court on Friday said it will not extend Governor Northam’s order barring eviction notices and proceedings as a newly implemented federal eviction moratorium takes effect. 

Northam asked the court for an extension of the temporary eviction order in a letter on Thursday, saying more time is needed to better understand the federal order and for the General Assembly to pass legislation to further protect Virginians. 

Read More

Confederate Monuments Coming Down Across State, Triggering Legal Battles

Monuments dominate Virginia’s headlines this week.

On Wednesday, Portsmouth City began removing its controversial Confederate monument. Last week, an anonymous plaintiff petitioned the Virginia Supreme Court to order confederate statues removed by the city of Richmond to go back up. The Richmond Circuit Court has scheduled a trial for October 19 to begin determining whether Richmond’s Robert E. Lee statue can be removed.

Read More