Most everyone has grown tired of the pandemic; it has caused great disruption in our lives, and terrible pain and suffering for families who have either lost a loved one, have had to endure serious illness, or whose economic livelihood has been adversely affected. While recent reports from the University of Virginia suggest an uptick of local cases, the good news is that vaccinations are on the rise (a recent report suggests that over 30 percent locally have received at least one shot), and more vaccine is arriving daily. When you have the chance to get a shot, do it! [Read more…]
States and Judicial Selection
For those of you interested in why states are important, you might read Pennsylvania Could Become a National Outlier in How it Elects Appellate Judges by former Virginia reporter Marie Albiges.
One of the reasons why states matter has to do with judicial selection. We are somewhat unique in Virginia in that our judges are chosen in the legislature, not by direct election of the people. In contrast, most states choose judges by popular elections. These can be quite costly and divisive. There are many states where judges do not identify with a party as they seek election. Nonetheless, the public easily can identify them as either conservative, liberal, or moderate, and make their choices accordingly. While the Virginia system has generated an Appellate and Supreme Court bench that is generally conservative, our selection process avoids costly elections where people choose not necessarily on whether a person is capable of being a good judge but instead upon how a judge is sold to the electorate.
We are now see seeing a tendency emerging in states, mostly red ones, where legislatures are trying to gain more control of the judiciary in order to stock it with conservative judges. This article shows how that is occurring in Pennsylvania , but we can expect it all over the country.
Virginia Democrats are trying to increase the number of judges on Virginia’s Court of Appeals, arguing that we need more judges so that justice may be served.
You can read more about judicial selection in the states in my upcoming book, Fighting Political Gridlock: How States Shape Our Nation and Our Lives, to be published late this summer by University of Virginia Press.
States of Emergency: Governors and the Public Wage War on COVID-19
On December 31, 2019, a brief release appeared on the website of the World Health Organization (WHO). Captioned “Pneumonia of unknown cause – China,” it briefly reported about a number of cases of pneumonia of unknown etiology (unknown cause) detected in the city of Wuhan, a port city of 11 million inhabitants. Few in this country took note, with the notable exception of scientific specialists in the areas of infectious diseases and public health.
Halfway around the world, Governors and state legislators were preparing for their annual legislative sessions. Virginia was among the first of the states to convene, and they did so on January 8. Major changes were contemplated for the state, since the Democrats had just taken control of the legislature and held the Governor’s office as well. On the other side of the country, Washington state convened its own session on January 13. Both states were making history as each elected their first women Speakers in history — Eileen Filler-Corn in Virginia and Laurie Jinkins in Washington. And Democratic Governors Jay Inslee of Washington and Ralph Northam were optimistic about making their marks on their states in light of a strong economy and Democratic majorities. Within two months, they would join other Governors across the nation, as they confronted the greatest challenges of their administrations, and their states would be plunged into the most serious crisis since the Great Depression. [Read more…]
Closing Arguments: Be Sure To Vote!
Vote Tomorrow, November 6, 2018
We are in the fight of our lives, and this election is the most important one yet. The Trump presidency is not only systematically attempting to undo the positive changes of the Obama years, but is attacking the institutions of Democracy itself. His assaults on civil servants, labeling those with whom he disagrees part of the “deep state,” diatribes against journalists and the media, and reckless disregard for the rule of law bring to mind Franklin’s admonition in the aftermath of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia 231 years ago that the founders had created “a Republic … if you can keep it.” Every day of the Trump White House provides us with more evidence of efforts to undermine the counterbalances to executive power, whether it involves the discriminatory “travel ban,” his efforts to “pack the courts” with like-minded judges, or the peddling of “fake news” claims and cynical lies. [Read more…]
Pittsburgh, Kentucky, and Beyond
As I sat quietly last Sunday evening during the Tree of Life memorial ceremony at Congregation Beth Israel, the only synagogue in the City of Charlottesville, my mind was flooded with images of so many incidents that preceded what occurred in Pittsburgh last week. All mass shootings — Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Parkland, and more — are terrible tragedies, but too many of the most recent shootings, such as the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando, the massacre of a prayer group at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, the deliberate shooting of two African-Americans shopping for groceries in Kentucky last week, and the assault on Jewish worshipers in the Tree of Life synagogue, are distinguished by one additional factor. The people killed and injured in these events were targeted because of their religion, race, or sexual orientation.
The rise in hate-related attacks in America is deeply troubling. For example, the Anti-Defamation League reported a 57% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 over 2016, the largest spike in more than 50 years. This sends shivers down the spines of those of us who witnessed neo-Nazis in Charlottesville in 2017 chanting “Jews will not replace us.” The Southern Poverty Law Center reports a 22% increase in neo-Nazi groups in 2017. Hate seems to be on the rise in America, emboldened by xenophobic rhetoric coming from Washington, DC, and endorsed by conspiracy theorists of the internet. [Read more…]
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