Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Roscoe Reynolds Doesn't Get It

One of the many reasons I'm endorsing Jeff Evans for the 20th Senate District over Roscoe Reynolds is right there in front of you. In July of 2005 I contacted Mr. Reynolds in order to ask his opinion of the Kelo v City of New London Supreme Court case and the issue of eminent domain in Virginia in general.

His response to me was either woefully ignorant of the law, or it was designed to patronize a constituent whom he thought to be ignorant and thus easily placated. Although I'm inclined to believe the latter to be true, either situation is unacceptable in a State Senator.

You will notice that Mr. Reynolds, who is a lawyer by the way, claims that since this was a Supreme Court decision and was based on the United States Constitution it could not affect Virginia at all. Now again remember that Mr. Reynolds is the lawyer, not me, so I could be wrong here. Could anyone tell me when and by what mechanism Virginia became immune to the requirements of the United States Constitution and or Supreme Court decisions?

As an enclosure with his letter Roscoe was thoughtful enough to include a copy of a document by Frank Munyan Senior Attorney for the Virginia Division of Legislative Services. The document, in PDF form can be downloaded here. [Link]

If you download Mr. Munyan's document you will find that he has decided that the Supreme Court's decision in Kelo does in fact apply to Virginia, with many of Virginia's provisions for condemnation bearing striking similarities to Justice Stevens' arguments. Once again I must ask; Is Roscoe Reynolds so dense that he would unknowingly include a document that refutes his own letter, or did he assume his corespondent would ignorantly not notice? Once again I have to conclude that either situation is unacceptable in a Virginia Senator.

A whole legislative session has since gone by with no action whatsoever from Mr. Reynolds. Now, just in time for the current legislative session there is a remarkably Kelo like situation occurring in the city of Staunton. Elle has more information on the case here. [Link]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

After reading Sen. Reynolds' July 11, 2006 letter to you concerning the Kelo decision, it is painfully obvious that he has not read that decision and is simply not familiar with the plethora of Virginia cases which have upheld the practice of condemnation for economic development purposes. In fact, the Virginia Supreme Court, in Ottofaro v. City of Hampton, held that the City of Hampton could condemn private property where the land may ultimately be owned by a private person engaged in private enterprise.

Obviously, Sen. Reynolds has not read that decision either.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of his letter to you is his comment to the effect that the Kelo decision involved only federal law and the U.S. Constitution. Again, his ignorance of Kelo is painfully obvious. In Kelo, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a condemnation action effected on a private citizen by the City of New London -- operating under full authority granted to it under the laws of Connecticut. See Conn. Gen. Stat. section 8-186 et seq.

Further, Justice Stevens, who authored the majority opinion in Kelo, opined that "[N]othing in our opinion precludes any State from placing further restrictions on its exercise of the takings power. Indeed, many States already impose 'public use' requirements that are stricter than the federal baseline."

Given the plethora of Virginia decisions upholding the practice of condemning private property for economic development and the aforementioned comment by Justice Stevens that states are not precluded from placing further restrictions on that practice, the invitation for action by the Virginia General Assembly could not be any more clear.

In terms of encroachment on individual rights and liberties, Kelo is one of the most dangerous and wrongly decided Supreme Court opinions dating back to the 1940s.

Private landowners should be added to the endangered species list. Kelo is but only one example of this march against private property. The situation in Staunton is only the tip of the iceberg.

Keep after old Roscoe.

All the best,
Roger A. Jarrell II, Esq.