Transparency News, 1/31/2022


January 31, 2022

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Some lawmakers want a thorough study of a part of state government that operates outside public view - the commission that investigates complaints of misconduct against judges. Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, and Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, are sponsoring legislation that would prompt an examination of the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission, which is known by its acronym JIRC. "I want to shine a spotlight on JIRC to ensure it is functioning as intended," Hope said in a statement. "I would venture to say most Virginians are largely unaware of this important Commission and the very crucial function it serves to help the judiciary. This study will help determine whether the JIRC is providing the necessary accountability and oversight and whether we can make improvements to this important body."
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates voted down a bill Friday that would have made it illegal for police to forge documents to use in interrogations. The legislation, proposed by Del. Jackie Glass, D-Norfolk, was inspired by revelations that in at least five interrogations police in Virginia Beach had shown suspects fake DNA reports on Virginia Department of Forensic Science letterhead. “This bill is necessary to protect the integrity of our convictions,” Glass told the House subcommittee tasked with reviewing the bill. Republicans, who hold a majority in the chamber, noted that police have long been allowed to lie to suspects during interrogations. They said that should include fake documents. “How many times has this been used to find out about a murder, find out about a rape?” said Del. Wren Williams, R-Patrick.
Virginia Mercury

A 10-year-old who later died of COVID-19 complications accompanied a student to the nurse’s clinic for an injury and an inhaler two days before she reported a headache to the nurse, according to an investigation completed by Suffolk Public Schools. Teresa Sperry’s parents, Nicole and Jeff Sperry, obtained the three-page report via a Freedom of Information Act request.
The Virginian-Pilot

Officials also discussed ways to shorten meetings by limiting comments. City Vice-Mayor Juandiego Wade said council meetings frequently run past midnight. “We want to make running for council more doable for anyone and right now if you have a job and you have a family, having meetings that go to 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. is just not feasible and it’s just not fair,” Vice-mayor Juandiego Wade said. Councilor Brian Pinkston agreed. “Most of the public is not able to be watching events on Zoom, let alone being down at City Hall between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m.,” Pinkston said. “I don’t think it’s fair to many of our citizens.” Councilors debated the best way to shorten meetings, from limiting public comment to putting a time limit on councilors’ statements. In the end, they voted to change meeting procedures so that people who speak during the first public comment session cannot speak in the last public comment segment of the meeting. If a member of the public did not speak earlier during the meeting, they will be allowed to speak during the last session.
The Daily Progress

Loudoun County Supervisor Caleb Kershner has threatened to withhold funding for the Virginia school system unless it releases a law firm report it commissioned to investigate the system’s handling of two sexual assaults at two county high schools involving a then-14-year-old boy, that Kershner’s law firm, and he personally represented. Kershner explained his law firm’s decision to defend his client, despite his role as county supervisor. “Ethically it is extremely difficult (and highly discouraged) for a lawyer to resign from a criminal case,” he said. “Courts generally will not allow it. We are professionally bound to represent the best interest of our client.” WTOP asked the sitting county supervisor about concerns raised by social media commenters about any perceived conflicts of interest. Initially, he responded by saying that he had not violated attorney-client privilege in his public comments. When asked, again, to respond to questions of a conflict of interest from social media commentators — in an elected position which funds the school board — Kershner said that there was no conflict and that he did need to recuse himself. “I think the conflict would be if I was quiet and said nothing knowing how great the failures were,” he said.