Now that we have a budget and the state Senate has been reorganized, we can turn our attention to other housekeeping matters such as the impeachment of Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring.
We remember in January one of his first moves in his new position was to ignore his role as the defender of Virginia’s Constitution. Instead of arguing in support of a popularly passed amendment, Herring chose to not defend it, a move that is rarely seen but not entirely out of the ordinary. If only he had stopped there.
But no, Herring had to go even further and support the case against this amendment purely because he didn’t like the politics of it. His choice had nothing to do with procedural legality and had everything to do with political gamesmanship. King Herring decreed that he did not believe the properly filed, fully debated, thoroughly vetted and popularly passed amendment was a good law so he stood in suit against it, which is a prerogative he does not have as Attorney General. This is unacceptable. Any fifth grader will tell you about separation of powers and about how the branches of government need to operate with respect for one another under the law. His majesty in the AG’s office does not get to unilaterally make a call like this and therefore he needs to be removed from office.
So far, the call to remove Herring has not been front and center, reflecting careful deliberation by those who would support such a move. Delegate Bob Marshall of Prince William has now presented resolutions to impeach Herring on the grounds that he has violated is oath of office by not defending the commonwealth and by standing in suit against a law he is obligated to defend. But Marshall’s efforts have not really gotten off the ground.
In the meantime we have to deal with an Attorney General who will not do the job his tax payer supported salary is paying him to do.
Let’s pause for a minute to talk about the amendment in question here. I haven’t mentioned it by name or given a description of it because it does not matter what the amendment says, it is the law. Once again this amendment was properly filed, fully debated, thoroughly vetted and popularly passed by the people of Virginia through a ballot initiative. It is the law and the law is the law. Herring didn’t like it, so he voted against it at the right time to vote against. When the tallies came in the will of Virginia’s people was not the same as Herring’s position and as Attorney General he is obligated to respect and defend the choice Virginia made. If the amendment is unconstitutional then the courts will decided that, not the Attorney General’s office.
The challenge to the constitutionality of the aforementioned amendment is still working its way through the appeal process of the court system, without Virginia offering adequate defense in the form of legal representation. So Virginia has to take extra steps in order to get business as usually done. Earlier this month Delegate Mark Cole of Fredericksburg introduced House Resolution 541 which calls for “the Speaker of the House [to] be authorized to employ legal counsel to represent the House of Delegates in [the] pending litigation.” This needs to be done because as HR541 states, “the people of Virginia and the House of Delegates have been deprived of representation” in this case. Herring is forcing the General Assembly to spend money to hire legal counsel to do Herring’s job for him. Herring is also forcing the General Assembly to take time out their legislative schedule to make this happen. He is wasting our money and our time.
Let’s not forget that Attorney General Mark Herring has violated his oath of office. The law allows for his removal. The necessary steps are being taken. It is time for a new Attorney General, one who will respect the office and laws he is constitutionally obligated to defend.