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.
CUCCINELLI APPOINTMENT TO TOP IMMIGRATION JOB MAY BE UNLAWFUL
A federal judge has ruled that the Trump administration violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 when it placed Cuccinelli in charge (acting) of the agency that runs the nation’s legal immigration system. Trump is expected to appeal.
Judge Randolph Moss ruled that the vacancy rules require a federal agency’s “first assistant” to assume leadership when the top job is open, saying, further, “Cuccinelli’s appointment fails to comply with the (law) for a more fundamental and clear-cut reason: he never did and never will serve in a subordinate role — that is, as an ‘assistant’ — to any other USCIS official.” The ruling if upheld threatens the validity of policy directives issued by Cuccinelli.
The surprise push to insert Cuccinelli in the Trump administration came from, among others, Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and longtime Republican conservative activist. All are ever so grateful.
BILL ENSURING PAY PARITY BETWEEN PROSECUTORS AND PUBLIC DEFENDERS DIES
In Richmond, public defenders make nearly 40 percent less than their counterparts in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. Some prosecutors right out of law school make more than public defenders with 10 years of experience. Internal numbers show that 65 percent of the employees in the Richmond Public Defender’s Office have left in the last 3 years. Pay scales are an obvious explanation for the turnover. Why the disparity?
Both offices of the justice system are state-funded positions and are generally paid equally. But Virginia law allows localities to supplement both offices, and that’s where much of the disparity is created. Richmond, for example, funded its Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office with roughly $7 million last year; the Public Defender’s Office, meanwhile, got nothing. Some 25 localities provide such supplemental funding.
This difference, of course, means that indigent defendants must rely on counsel who get paid far less than their prosecutorial counterparts. The wage scale disparity also affects support staff such as paralegals. In the legislative session recently ended, a bill to create parity in supplemental funding died It was opposed by Commonwealth Attorneys statewide, citing it, in part, an unfunded mandate. The committee handling it punted it to next year. Consequently, the criminal justice process and system tilts even more precipitously against defendants represented by public defenders.