Transparency News 9/10/19



September 10, 2019


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state & local news stories


Attorneys for Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, say he and the institution he leads shouldn’t have to pay a roughly $800,000 legal bill tied to the racial gerrymandering suit House Republicans spent years fighting. Perkins Coie, a Democratic-aligned law firm that filed the suit in late 2014 on behalf of a group of African American voters, is seeking to recover almost $4.6 million from the state to cover its legal work and expenses related to the case. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a final appeal by House Republicans, declining to reverse a lower court ruling that found 11 House districts were unconstitutional. In a motion filed in federal court last week, attorneys with BakerHostetler, the firm representing Cox and the House, said their side is not willing to concede that Perkins Coie and the plaintiffs won the case. They said the “winning argument” before the Supreme Court — that the House lacked legal standing to appeal — was advanced by Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring and U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, an appointee of President Donald Trump.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

McClatchy in a new court motion called Rep. Devin Nunes’ lawsuit against the media company a “cynical maneuver to score cheap political points” and argued the case should be dismissed because it does not belong in the Virginia court where the California Republican filed it. Nunes, R-Tulare, in April sued McClatchy alleging his hometown paper The Fresno Bee defamed him in the midst of his 2018 reelection campaign. McClatchy on Monday filed to dismiss Nunes’ lawsuit in Virginia, arguing he has no grounds to sue the Sacramento-based company there. The article at issue was published in California, the company’s headquarters is in California and Nunes has offices in California and not in Virginia. None of the 30 daily newspapers owned by McClatchy publishes in Virginia. McClatchy also argues that Nunes is violating a user agreement by attempting to sue the company in Virginia. Nunes has subscribed to The Fresno Bee online since September 2016, and he agreed in the terms of service to file lawsuits against the newspaper in Fresno County courts.“Unlike Virginia’s anti-SLAPP statute, California’s anti-SLAPP statute gives defendants the right to obtain attorneys’ fees and costs for defending ‘strategic lawsuits against political participation,’ like this one,” McClatchy’s motion to dismiss reads.


stories of national interest

A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee will hear testimony this month about a lack of transparency in the federal courts, with a focus on judges who routinely keep important evidence secret at the public’s expense. The hearing comes after a June 25 Reuters investigation (Read the Special Report here ) detailed how judges have allowed the makers of dozens of consumer products to file under seal in their courts information that is pertinent to public health and safety. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Americans have been killed or seriously injured by allegedly defective products -- drugs, cars, medical devices and other products -- while evidence that could have alerted consumers and regulators to potential danger remained hidden by the courts.




editorials & columns


Body cameras are becoming increasingly common across the country, including in Hampton Roads. Police, citizens and even privacy advocates generally favor the trend, and the footage has been used to both acquit innocent parties and enhance the government’s case against suspects. A 2018 survey of Virginia police departments found nearly 7,300 cameras were being used - that figure is no doubt larger today. The cameras’ rapid acceptance is tied to the fact that such recordings can often get at the truth of an incident like nothing else. If a picture is worth a thousand words, video footage carries volumes more information. They also create problems, specifically in the amount of time it takes to review interactions that lead to formal charges, especially if multiple angles of the same incident are recorded.
Daily Press