Brief Cases is published occasionally to update information on previously published articles and/or to add comment upon them. Sometimes the content will be new, particularly as the material is deemed to be of note.
PRIVILEGE EXERCISED, JUSTICE DENIED
The adage goes, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” Del. Jeffrey Campbell’s (R-Smyth) day job is as an attorney in private practice, as is the case with many members of the General Assembly. They are, however, gifted with certain privileges as legislators that are not available to other mortal attorneys or just plain mortals. State code says lawmakers are entitled to continuances of 30 days before or after a session in scheduled court appearances. Since 2017, Campbell has exercised this excuse 30 times, including nine times in a criminal appeals case involving domestic assault. The continuances may have been exacerbated because the General Assembly didn’t technically adjourn several special sessions in 2018 and 2019, enabling Campbell and other lawmaker-attorneys to use the privilege even when no legislative work was in process.
An assistant Smyth County Commonwealth’s Attorney said his office didn’t object to the first few continuances in the case. They then started to object, but state code gives legislator-lawyers broad permission to use the privilege “as a matter of right, in some instances.” Another element of continuance requests often involves the travel distance for attorneys. Campbell has cited a four-hour commute from his residence to the court in Richmond. Wise litigants, including defendants in criminal proceedings, are certain to be alert to choosing an attorney-legislator who lives a distance from the court to represent them.
MR. PEANUT IS DEAD! BABY NUT RESURRECTED
It wasn’t as if anyone could be truly surprised by what happened to Mr. Peanut during the Super Bowl. We’ve become so accustomed to long-gone characters coming back from the dead that it’s almost normal. Why would Planters want to off its 104-year-old mascot, one of the most recognizable in the advertising world? Ultimately, it didn’t.
In a pre-Super Bowl ad released Jan. 22, Mr. Peanut died in a Nutmobile accident, valiantly sacrificing himself to save two friends. The company then launched a social media campaign, using #RIPeanut, and urged shell-shocked fans to look for a commercial featuring Mr. Peanut’s funeral during the Super Bowl.
In the second ad, while Wesley Snipes eulogizes the deceased legume, a tear from another Kraft Heinz mascot, Kool-Aid Man, falls on the grave, and a baby nut quickly sprouts, hat on head, and spouts a few nonsense dolphin sounds. “Just kidding, I’m back,” he says. “Where’s my monocle?” Baby Peanut, perhaps following the lead of baby Yoda in “The Mandalorian” series from Star Wars, has already been placed on a baby onesie, socks, an iPhone case and a tote that are being sold online. Halloween may be a litmus test for the little mascot’s popularity: Will kids and pets get dressed up as baby peanut?
For those interested in the demise of other beloved characters, you can read about Elsie the Cow in https://voxfairfax.com/2020/01/13/beloved-bovine-buffered-by-bankruptcy/.
THEY SHOOT SOCIALISTS, DON’T THEY?
A Montana lawmaker recently rejected legislative leaders’ call for his resignation over his assertion that the U.S. Constitution allows socialists to be jailed or shot. Republican Rep. Rodney Garcia of Billings, responding to the letter by the three leaders of his own political party, said the “only way I would give my resignation is if God asked me to.” He made his original comments at a Republican gathering in Helena, saying he was worried about socialists entering the government. He has stood by those comments, saying socialism—which he called “pretty much communism”—is dangerous. He could not cite which part of the Constitution supports his claims.
VEXIT VANGUARD VOICES VEXED IN VIRGINIA
At a recent Board of Supervisors’ meeting, Tazewell residents sounded off on VEXIT–a proposal to secede from Virginia and become part of West Virginia. As in other jurisdictions, the discussion followed a predictable course. The impetus for leaving was the Virginia legislature’s recent actions on gun safety laws, and an invitation by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, endorsed by Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr., who proclaimed, “Democratic leaders in Richmond, through their elitism and radicalism, have left a nearly unrecognizable state in their wake.” Not to be out-preached, Gov. Justice chimed in, “If you’re not truly happy where you are, we stand with open arms to take you from Virginia or anywhere where you may be.” Residents at the meeting cited the desire to escape the influence of former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and their fears that public morality was eroding, along with their fear for family values in Virginia. One district supervisor reminded attendees of limits upon local jurisdictions pursuant to the Dillon rule that this is not an action or decision the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors can make noting that the county has no more authority than what the Virginia General Assembly grants.
West Virginia itself was born during the Civil War, when western counties of the Commonwealth objected to slavery and secession, deciding that separation from the Old Dominion was a better course. That’s why West Virginia is known as the child of rebellion.
FREEDOM FROM RELIGION AVOIDED IN LAWSUIT
In Fredericksburg (Spotsylvania County), an elderly couple living in a retirement community received an eviction notice for conducting religious services in their apartment and in the community club room. The company alleged that it had received complaints from other residents expressing discomfort at being exposed to the services. It was also alleged that some residents were hostile to the couple, verbally accosting them, and even assaulting them.
A federal lawsuit was filed by the First Liberty Institute, a zealous advocate for religious freedom, citing that other community-type events were held in the common areas such as Tupperware parties and charity fundraisers. It does not appear that other residents were represented in the lawsuit. The claim was settled with the management company’s withdrawing its eviction notice and agreeing to allow the couple to conduct Bible study in the community areas.
While practicing their religion in their own apartment, even inviting other residents, seems to be a protected expression under the First Amendment, that practice in common community areas touches upon the right of other residents to be free from religion. In settling the claim, the company is now open to being required to permit any and all religious activities in the common areas. It’s unlikely that the complex will experience a request from Shintoists or Buddhists in the short run but, as a facility receiving state and federal funds, such requests would have to be honored. Certainly, an arguable claim could have been advanced by the other residents asserting the right to be free from religious expressions condoned by a company receiving government benefits.