Public Comments for 02/19/2021 Courts of Justice
SB1168 - "Abused or neglected child"; definition.
Last Name: Neil Organization: City of Portsmouth Locality: Hampton

We support. Please see prior submitted testimony. Thank you

Last Name: Sherri Organization: City of Portsmouth, VA Locality: Hampton

The City of Portsmouth thanks Senator Lucas for sponsoring this bill. The problematic definitional differences in two subsections of the VA Code (VA Code Section 16.1-228 and VA Code Section 63.2-100), came to light when one of our Assistant City Attorney's encountered a problem during a court hearing. The definition in Subsection 4 of VA Code Section 16.1-228 and 63.2-100 are different. The verbiage in Subsection 4 of VA Code 63.2-100 regarding 'sexual exploitation' is more expansive than the verbiage used in the same Subsection of VA Code Section 16.1-228. Also, Subsection 2 of VA Code Section 63.2-100 is different from the definition in Subsection 2 of VA Code Section 16.1-228 regarding how to consider the actions of a parent or person responsible for providing health care for an abused and neglected child. For judicial interpretation purposes, a definition does not apply if it is not referenced. SB1168 seeks to align the definitions of these two VA Code Subsections, which will also strengthen those definitions in VA Code Section 16.1-228. We thank you in advance for your support of this legislation.

Last Name: Neil Organization: City of Portsmouth Locality: Hampton

Previous testimony submitted in support of this bill. I also signed up to speak but have not received a link to connect to the meeting.

Last Name: Riddick Organization: Office of Portsmouth City Attorney Locality: City of Portsmouth

The Portsmouth City Attorneys Office ask that you support this bill because this bill makes the definition of abused or neglected child found in title 16.1 -228 consistent with the definition of abused or neglected child found in title 63.2 -100 of the Code of Virginia. The definition of an abused or neglected child should be consistent in the code of Virginia for investigation purposes and for initiating court actions in child welfare proceedings.

Last Name: Neil Organization: City of Portsmouth Locality: Hampton

SB 1168 - Patron -Senator Lucas - Please Support! The crux of the matter is the difference in the definitions in Subsection 4 of VA Code Section 16.1-228 and VA Code Section 63.2-100. Also, Subsection 2 of VA Code Section 63.2-100 is different from the definition in Subsection 2 of VA Code Section 16.1-228 regarding how to consider the actions of a parent or person responsible for providing health care for an abused and neglected child. These inconsistencies in the definitions were brought to our attention by one of the City's Assistant City Attorneys, Ms. Riddick, after she encountered this misalignment in the Code of Virginia while dealing with a matter before the court. For judicial interpretation purposes a definition does not apply unless it is referenced. Hence, there exists a need to align these two VA Code Sections. This bill does not create new language in either Code Section, just adds the existing definitions in Subsections 2 and 4 of VA Code Section 63.2-100 to Subsections 2 and 4 of VA Code Section 16.1-228. I shared my research on this matter with the Virginia Crime Commission who examined the matter and agreed with my findings. They also shared the issues with the Virginia Department of Social Services, who also examined the matter, and agreed with our observations. In conclusion, we collectively agree as to how this oversight may have occurred. From a legislative staff perspective, it probably occurred because a Code Section 63.2 bill would have gone through Courts (maybe General Laws, but most likely Courts) so it would not have occurred to the patron, committee members or drafter to kept the two definitions parallel when they were amending the definitional sections in VA Code Sections in 63.2 The VA Code Section in 63.2 is a little bit 'looser' which is okay in the civil context and for DSS matters. But the VA Code Section 16.1 is definition is more likely to come into play with a criminal charge, and hence the verbiage needs to be more precise. What is 'exploitation?' Is it defined anywhere else in VA Code Sections 18.2 or 26.1? It appears they have been different regarding the term 'exploitation' as far back as a search through the portal would allow. As far as we are aware, there is no substantive reason as to why 'exploitation' appears in VA Code Section 63.2-100, but not in 16.1-228. This bill passed unanimously through Senate Courts and the full Senate, and we hope that this measure will be met with the same levels of support in the House of Delegates. Thank you

Last Name: Neil Organization: City of Portsmouth Locality: Hampton

On behalf of the City of Portsmouth, we thank Senator Lucas for her patronage of this bill. The crux of the matter is the difference in the definitions in Subsection 4 of VA Code Section 16.1-228 and VA Code Section 63.2-100. Also, Subsection 2 of VA Code Section 63.2-100 is different from the definition in Subsection 2 of VA Code Section 16.1-228 regarding how to consider the actions of a parent or person responsible for providing health care for an abused and neglected child. These inconsistencies in the definitions was brought to our attention by one of the City's Assistant City Attorneys, Ms. Riddick, after she encountered this misalignment in the Code of Virginia while dealing with a matter before the court. For judicial interpretation purposes a definition does not apply unless it is referenced. Hence, there exists a need to align these two VA Code Sections. This bill does not create new language in either Code Section, just adds the existing definitions in Subsections 2 and 4 of VA Code Section 63.2-100 to Subsections 2 and 4 of VA Code Section 16.1-228. This bill passed unanimously through Senate Courts and the full Senate. We ask that you also please support this bill. Thank you

SB1181 - Special immigrant juvenile status; jurisdiction.
Last Name: Cruz Locality: Fluvanna

Support for SB1181

Last Name: Casey Locality: Henrico

As a longtime legal advocate, a former Assistant US Attorney, and a current law professor, I strongly encourage you to support SB1181 (Surovell), which would ensure that immigrant children in Virginia are able to access the full protection of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Unaccompanied, undocumented minor children fleeing violence in South and Central America are being placed in Virginia, making our Commonwealth their new home. Some of these children qualify for “special immigrant juvenile status” (SIJS) – an immigration status conferred by the federal government if the state court makes certain factual findings. These state court proceedings are necessary for these children’s cases to move forward. However, with no constitutional right to an attorney, many of these children face these proceedings, and possible deportation, all alone. Nevertheless, receiving SIJS protection often means the difference between life and death for many of these children. According to federal law, a child may apply for SIJS protection prior to turning 21, as long as they can provide the state court’s determination that they had been abused, abandoned, or neglected in their home country. Unfortunately, Virginia’s current law does not mirror the federal provisions, as our Juvenile and Domestic Relations (JDR) Courts only have jurisdiction to conduct this fact-finding until a child reaches the age of 18. This cruel mismatch results in young immigrants who did not receive these crucial findings before they turn 18 being forever closed off to SIJS protection. Even for children who had filed petitions in JDR Court prior to turning 18 – if the determinations are not made in time, they have lost what may be their only chance at safety and stability here in Virginia. Immigrant children are right now caught within the fractures of where federal law and state law do not meet, through no fault of their own. Curing this fracture, i.e., providing JDR courts with the ability to issue these findings until a young person is 21 years old, is a virtually cost-free, minimum-hassle solution with a potentially life-saving impact. Please support SB1181 so that our legal system is a more just system for immigrant children in Virginia. Tara Louise Casey Professor of Law, Legal Practice Director, Carrico Center for Pro Bono & Public Service University of Richmond School of Law

Last Name: McConnell Organization: University of Richmond School of Law Locality: City of Richmond

The Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) process involves a mix of both state and federal determinations to find an immigrant child who has escaped abuse, neglect, or abandonment in her home country eligible to remain in the United States and seek permanent residency. The first part of the process requires J&DR courts to make factual findings regarding the child’s situation to determine what would be in their best interests. If the court believes it would not be in the child’s best interests to return to their home country, they can issue an order in support of the child’s SIJS application, which is then argued in the Immigration Court. Many young people and their caregivers are not aware that they must first request factual findings in state J&DR courts before the child can be granted SIJS by the federal government and don’t have access to attorneys to advise them. I handle these cases on a pro bono basis in my clinic at the University of Richmond, but not everyone has counsel. Many have experienced detention at the border or have been separated from family, which further delays seeking appropriate relief. A significant problem can then arise when the federal government rejects an SIJS application after the child turns eighteen and the JDR court loses jurisdiction. Also, attorneys often are not willing to take cases too close to the 18th birthday, because the attorney feels it is unlikely that factual findings will be determined before the child turns eighteen. SB 1181 can help protect these vulnerable, immigrant children who are at risk of being returned to harmful, dangerous, and unstable situations in their home countries. I have represented many children who have escaped unspeakable horrors. This will allow the courts to retain jurisdiction to make factual findings that enable a child to apply for SIJS until the child is 21. Importantly, this bill is limited to situations where the child has previously been in the JDR court prior to the child’s eighteenth birthday. It has always been challenging to get these cases heard before children age out of juvenile court jurisdiction, but everything has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic which has caused extensive delays in accessing the court for these proceedings. SB1181 proposes to allow the J&DR courts to retain jurisdiction over these children until they reach the age of twenty-one so that children who are closely approaching eighteen when they file for SIJS are not barred from having a judge make these determinations simply because they could not get a hearing before their eighteenth birthday. SB 1181 does not require or permit J&DR courts to provide immigration status of any kind. The J&DR courts only needs to use their expertise in determining the best interests of the child to make factual findings about the child’s situation. The factual findings from J&DR are submitted along with the child’s SIJS application to the immigration court. SB 1181 is not only critical to protect young people from being removed from a stable and safe living environment, but it is consistent with practices that already exist in Virginia courts and with the federal government’s definition and treatment of a child. Thank you for your consideration. This change could make a significant difference in the lives of these vulnerable children. Prof. Julie McConnell University of Richmond School of Law

SB1209 - Subcontractor's employees; liability of general contractor for wages.
Last Name: Leonard Organization: BWLDC, LiUNA Locality: Reston

The Baltimore Washington Laborers' District Council, the LiUNA affiliate representing more than 7,500 construction laborers across Northern Virginia, DC, and Maryland opposes SB1209 for the following reasons, and urges the committee to vote no on this bill: ● The existing law already is narrow in scope. The current law only applies if the general contractor knew or should have known that workers on their job sites were not being paid all wages due. The current law also only applies to large construction projects valued at more than $500,000, and entirely exempts single-family residential projects. ● SB1209 creates a loophole so that general contractors can avoid liability. Subcontractors have shown a strong willingness to commit wage theft and circumvent Virginia Criminal Code to maintain competitive advantage. With SB1209, a general contractor would be able to avoid liability if the subcontractor states in writing it is paying workers all their wages due, whether true or not. ● It is well-established that general contractors are liable for the actions of their subcontractors, and Virginia should not be backtracking. General contractors are liable for subcontractors’ violations of OSHA regulations and workers compensation laws. As a result, it is well-established that general contractors are responsible for all workers on their job sites for certain matters and should monitor their job sites for potential violations. ● General contractor liability does NOT increase the cost of bonding for subcontractors. The implementation of § 11-4.6 in July 2020 has NOT led to an increase in bonding rates for subcontractors because general contractors typically do not require subcontractors to purchase separate indemnity bonds. Instead, general contractors usually include contract language that indemnifies the general contractor for wages and damages unpaid by the subcontractor.

Last Name: Gilbride Organization: Public Justice Locality: Washington DC

I am a senior staff attorney with Public Justice and have litigated dozens of cases involving forced arbitration provisions, many of those focusing on the issue of Federal Arbitration Act preemption. I have also spoken on the topic of whether particular proposed state legislation is preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act before the legislatures of New York, California and Maryland. Public Justice supports SB1384, which will empower localities throughout Virginia by allowing them to gather the same information about companies that use forced arbitration that is already in the public domain with respect to companies whose employment and civil rights disputes are litigated in open court. When localities enter into contracts, they should have full information about the business records of their potential contracting partners, and this legislation will provide that much-needed transparency. Because the localities will be operating as market participants, not as regulators imposing restrictions on arbitration, the bill does not raise concerns about preemption by the Federal Arbitration Act. A more extensive discussion of the market participant doctrine and how it interacts with FAA preemption can be found in our full testimony here: http://bit.ly/Gilbride_PublicJustice_SB1384

SB1234 - Virginia State Bar examination; foreign applicants, evidence required.
Last Name: Khan Locality: Fairfax County

Correction to the last comment: it was passed 39-0 (and not 49-0) in the Senate. Sincerely, Ibnul Ali Khan, Esq.

Last Name: Khan Locality: Fairfax County

Dear Delegates: I was present during the hearing before the Senate and testified before it was voted 15-0 in committe. A representative from the Virginia Supreme Court stated "no comment" to the Bill. The Patron of the Bill, Senator Petersen, also conferred with the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners ("VBBE") regarding the Bill. The VBBE did not make a public appearance before the Senate. The Bill was passed 49-0 in the Senate. Sincerely, Ibnul Ali Khan, Esq.

Last Name: Khan Locality: Fairfax County

Dear Delegates: Background: I am an attorney licensed to practice law in the states of New York and Maryland, and before the United States District Court for the District of Maryland and the Southern District of New York. I also teach Constitutional law as an Adjunct Professor at George Mason University Law School. I currently practice law with a law firm in Fairfax, Virginia. I am familiar with the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia and Virginia law in general. Impacted Class: I speak on behalf of a class of thousands of foreign attorneys who seek to pursue a legal career in the Commonwealth of Virginia but are prevented from doing so given the current law (the "Class"), as fully described herein. Status quo in the majority of states: currently, the Uniform Bar Exam is administered by 38 states and out of those 38 states, foreign attorneys (i.e., attorneys licensed in jurisdictions outside of the U.S.) can sit for the bar exam in potentially 34 different states, with some of those states requiring an LL.M. at an ABA-approved law school in the U.S. Getting licensed in the majority of states: of the 34 states allowing the foreign attorney to sit for their bar exam, 20 of those states require the applicant to obtain an LL.M. in an ABA-approved law school. Therefore, most foreign attorneys only pursue a 1-year LL.M. and pursue the bar exam in these states. The issue in Virginia: there is currently no option for foreign attorneys, even those who obtain an LL.M. at an ABA-approved law school and become licensed as an attorney in another state, to take the Virginia bar exam. Additionally, even if one practices law for 5-years (and maintains an active license), the only waiver provision only grants J.D. graduates the ability to waive into Virginia (without sitting for the bar exam). Therefore, someone like myself, who after having practiced as an attorney for 5 years, could never waive in or even sit for the bar exam given the J.D. requirement. In essence, the Virginia bar is limited to J.D. graduates and those who pursue the "law office" study route and precludes those in the Class. Proposed law: this law would have the impact of allowing foreign attorneys who obtain a LL.M. at an ABA-approved law school and become licensed in one of the United States to become eligible to only sit for the Virginia bar exam. I, along with the thousands of others, support this legislation. It would put foreign attorneys, who become licensed attorneys in the U.S., on an equal footing with Virginia residents and those who have had the privilege to obtain a J.D., at least as it pertains to sitting for the bar exam. Sincerely yours, Ibnul Ali Khan, Esq. Personally and on behalf of the Class

SB1261 - Court of Appeals; expands jurisdiction, increases from 11 to 17 number of judges on Court.
No Comments Available
SB1262 - Restricted permit; prepayment of fines and costs.
Last Name: McDermott Organization: Faces and Voice of Recovery (FAVOR) of Virginia Locality: Maidens

I call your attention to the above referenced bill SB1262 (Restricted permit; prepayment of fines and costs) asking for your support as it comes before you. This legislation could have the benefit of impacting thousands of individuals who cannot drive to and from work due to the burden of court costs/fines, especially those in early recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) as they attempt to clear wreckage from their past. As an individual in sustained continuous SUD recovery for over 29 years, I know firsthand the importance of driving privileges and being a useful productive member of society. Further burdening folks with barriers to self-sufficiency is counterproductive to social quality. Thank you for your consideration of my humble personal perspective in this matter, and for your valued selfless service to our Commonwealth.

SB1266 - Admission to bail; rebuttable presumptions against bail.
Last Name: Ford Organization: Virginia Victim Assistance Network Locality: Richmond

Virginia Victim Assistance Network, the statewide member organization for victim/witness advocates around the state, opposes this legislation. Removing the presumption against bond in cases like malicious wounding, strangulation, and murder is extremely dangerous for victims and their families. We risk offenders being released and escalating violence. We ask that you vote no on SB 1266.

Last Name: Tolley Locality: Henrico

SB1266 - Deeds. I urge the committee to support this bill. The code is currently in contradiction to the concept and supposed right to be presumed innocent until/unless proven guilty. The fact that someone can be locked up without bail on the mere basis of the charge flies in the face of justice. This bill will correct a terrible flaw in our criminal justice system. SB1315 - McClellan. I urge the committee to support this bill and conform HB 2047 to this bill. The mental health considerations were stripped from Bourne's bill for what sounded like fears of worst case scenarios and fears that the bill would automatically allow someone with mental illness a free pass. There seemed to be a fear that simply allowing the defendant's mental health issues to be considered throughout the process was equivalent to a not guilty decision for anyone with mental illness. This is a gross misinterpretation. To continue to prevent consideration of defendants' mental illness or presence of intellectual or developmental disabilities is patently unjust - and will allow the current miscarriage of justice which is reflected in the statistics documenting the over-representation of people with mental illness, developmental disabilities and intellectual disabilities in our criminal justice systems. For both SB 1266 and SB1315, these are not bills that are soft on crime as suggested by some. Rather, they rebalance the criminal justice system to consider each case individually with full information rather than acting from a place of prejudgment and retribution.

Last Name: Gaborik Locality: Richmond

SB 1266 - Removing the presumption against bail allows for Judges to evaluate bail in a more fair and just manner which aligns with the core tenet of presumption of innocence. Judges can and should be allowed to determine bail on a case by case basis without being forced to start at a presumption against bond. Arbitrary pretrial incarceration makes it difficult for defendant's to assist in their defense and can lead to mental health and medical issues associated with the poor treatment of inmates, especially during a pandemic. SB1315 - Our justice system must include language that allows for the defendant's mental health to be addressed during the case in chief. This bill allows for our state to become more in line with the Model Penal Code. I have had dozens of cases as a criminal defense attorney over the last two decades where an individual with significant mental health issues did not meet the very rigid and narrow definition of insanity and instead were incarcerated for substantial amounts of time after a guilty verdict. These individuals should have been able to present evidence of their mental health at the time of the offense when determining guilt or innocence. It was a travesty of justice that they could not and it is time for Virginia to recognize the need to give those suffering from mental health other avenues for justice. SB1442 - As a former public defender in the City of Richmond I encourage the members of this Committee to vote in support of a Public Defender's Office in the County of Chesterfield. I practice frequently in this County and can say the level of representation by the court appointed counsel is substantially hindered by the lack of resources and low pay for these attorneys. A Public Defender's Office helps level the playing field for indigent defendants by providing those resources currently not available to court appointed counsel, as well as, not making counsel dependent upon the Judge for their source of income. A defendant represented by a Public Defender would have access to an investigator in their case, regardless of the severity. Currently, only the most serious of charges warrants the granting of funds for an investigator. This means defendant's facing misdemeanors and low level felonies, that could result in jail time, do not have access to an investigator who could help locate witnesses, canvas scenes, and provide other pretrial work the attorney cannot or should not be doing. Additionally, the Public Defender's office would have mitigation specialists on staff to help with complex cases or complex defendant's who need more help at the pretrial or sentencing phase of a case. Additionally, thanks to the substantial number of Public Defender Offices across the state attorneys would have access to brief and motions banks for trial and appellate purposes. Lastly, attorneys in this office would have supervision and daily oversight to insure they are held to the high standards put in place by the Indigent Defense Commission for representation of their clients. Real reform of our justice system must include the ability to have counsel that is both qualified and has the resources necessary to be effective in their representation. Thank you.

Last Name: Griffith Organization: Virginia Community Criminal Justice Association (VCCJA) Locality: RADFORD

The Virginia Community Criminal Justice Association would like to provide our support for SB 1266. We support this bill as the elimination of rebuttable presumption addresses the following: 1. Removes the use of presumptive offenses that casts a wide pretrial detention net without careful consideration of actual risk of the person being considered for release. 2. Presumptive offenses are not based on the research and can cause harm if the defendant is held for even a few days. It can significantly impact the families, communities, and the individuals with loss of housing, employment, and other protective factors. 3. People who are detained pretrial are also at a greater risk of entering a guilty plea regardless of guilt. 4. Judicial officers are already equipped with the tools they need to assess whether a person accused of a crime is too great of a risk to be released. 5. Unnecessarily detaining an individual at the pretrial stage subsequently costs the taxpayers money. We believe that Virginia must not punish an individual for being accused of a crime. A fair and just criminal justice system should not further contribute to harm by holding individuals or requiring cash bail that does not consider all relevant risk factors. Former Chief Justice William Rehnquist stated, “In our system, liberty is the norm, and detention prior to trial is the carefully limited exception.”

Last Name: Gardner Locality: Chesapeake

My name is Katie Gardner and I work as an Assistant Director of Victim Witness Services at a Commonwealth's Attorney's Office. I have been working in Victim Services since 2015. I spent some time in Florida at a State Attorney's Office as the sole victim advocate for the office. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and a Master's Degree in Forensic Psychology. I've completed well over one hundred hours of victim services training, and have provided training to prosecutors, law enforcement, social workers, etc. on the impact of the criminal justice system on victims and the trauma of victimization. I have emailed this feedback directly to the Chair, Del. Herring, and Del. Leftwich as I am a constituent of District 78. However, I wanted to share my commentary here as well because it is important it be considered. To begin, so much of the legislation making its way through the General Assembly is soft on crime and does not hold offenders accountable. This particular bill is severely lacking in addressing victim safety. A person who commits a violent crime against another has already demonstrated to the court that they are a risk to the public and that victim. https://www.washingtonpost.com/crime-law/2020/08/06/released-jail-height-pandemic-alexandria-rape-suspect-allegedly-killed-his-accuser/ The attached news article addresses a tragedy right here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a man in jail awaiting trial after being indicted on charges of rape, strangulation, and abduction was granted a $25,000 bond when his attorneys argued he was not safe in jail due to the pandemic. Two months, after being granted a bond, the defendant shot and killed the victim who testified against him at preliminary hearing. Even with a presumption, this individual was still granted a bond. Removing that presumption will make it easier for violent offenders to bond out and engage in violent behavior. I got my start in Victim Services in Pinellas County, FL. In Florida, if you are arrested for a particularly violent crime or any domestic related offense, you are held with no bond until you go before a judge. All defendants are seen by a judge within 24 hours of their arrest at what's called an advisory hearing. Years ago, that was not always the case for domestic crimes until one defendant was arrested for a domestic violence charge, bonded out and immediately killed his victim. Even since holding defendants with no bond for 24 hours, offenders have still bonded out and murdered their victims. Florida tried to do better. Now Virginia needs to do better. Virginia's Criminal Justice System is headed down a dark, dangerous, accountability-free path that has many people working in victim services terrified. Please keep these anecdotes in mind when considering this bill. Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

SB1329 - Summons; promises to appear after issuance.
Last Name: DeBoard Organization: Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police (VACP) Locality: Herndon

The VACP supports SB 1329. We feel that the passage of this bill will eliminate unnecessary and avoidable confrontations with citizens. The refusal of an individual to sign a summons does not negate their responsibility to either prepay their fine or appear in court at the listed date and time. We feel this is a positive piece of legislation in line with other police reform bills. The VACP supports the concept of SB 1468 but continues to have concerns about language in a specific part of this bill. The bill states that we have to sign these certification forms if the applicant is a victim of a qualifying crime. There are two other reasons we can and are expected to deny signing a U-Visa certification form: if the victim failed to cooperate or they have been involved and convicted in serious crimes themselves. The language in question is found in lines 66-70, which states: “If the certifying official cannot determine whether the applicant is a victim of qualifying criminal activity or determines that the applicant does not qualify, the certifying official shall provide a written explanation to the person or the person's representative setting forth reasons why the available evidence does not support a finding that the person is a victim of qualifying criminal activity.” What needs to be added to the end of this sentence is “… or otherwise does not qualify.” This additional language is needed to provide chiefs or other certifying authorities the ability to deny signing these forms when they don’t meet any one of the qualifications, not just whether they are a victim of a certifying crime. For example, we cannot sign a form knowing a victim has not cooperated or refused to cooperate just because they were a victim. The code section needs to be more clear here to ensure we are not being required to put our signatures on a form when we know that someone fails one of the tests to qualify. We want to help our immigrant communities and provide them fair and consistent access to this federal process and we support requiring that agencies have a process in place to process these certification forms and publicly post these procedures. We do, however, want to ensure we are not making this process subject to additional abuse and fraud. We cannot sign these forms simply because they were a victim of a qualifying crime. They must also meet the other standards at the time that the forms are presented to us. From an integrity standpoint, we cannot put our signatures on a form that supports someone who we know is not cooperating

Last Name: Laura Bateman Organization: Virginia First Cities Locality: City of Richmond

Virginia First Cities urges you to please support SB 1329. Placing an individual under arrest merely for refusing to sign a summons can quickly escalate into a much more dire situation, placing both the officer and the civilian in an unfortunate and unnecessary confrontation. When an individual refuses to sign a summons, the officer should have the option to indicate such refusal on the paperwork, provide a copy to the person, and conclude the incident. Virginia First Cities asks that Code of Virginia be amended to no longer require an arrest in this circumstance.

SB1339 - Criminal records; sealing of records, Sealing Fee Fund created, penalties, report.
No Comments Available
SB1351 - Workers' compensation; claims not barred.
No Comments Available
SB1442 - Public defender office; establishes an office for the County of Chesterfield.
Last Name: Brigham Locality: Richmond

Please support this bill.

Last Name: Córdova Locality: Chesterfield

SB1442. It's time to correct pretrial injustices and the fundamental rights of the people of Chesterfield.

Last Name: Hernandez Locality: Richmond

I urge the House to pass Senate Bill 1442. Our pre-trial detention system is cruel and defendants deserve adequate representation as they await trial. This is an important equity issue to address the racism and classism in our criminal justice system.

Last Name: McElwain Locality: N Chesterfield

People with few economic resources or whose living situation is impacted negatively for this lack of resources need an advocate to ensure fairness for all in our justice system. I have formerly incarcerated friends who now advocate for criminal justice reform and have seen first-hand the impacts of our justice system on disadvantaged citizens. Around 80% of detainees in Chesterfield County are indigent from data citizens, including me, collected from New Virginia Majority's Court Watch program which was active in Chesterfield County before the pandemic and which we hope to resume their soon.

Last Name: Osinkosky Locality: Richmond

I urge the House to pass SB 1442!

Last Name: Christopher Rashad Green Organization: Community Organizer for the People Locality: Richmond

The Citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and specifically the residents of Chesterfield County, all need this bill to move forward. As a formerly incarcerated individual who has experienced years of pretrial detention and mass supervision, I know how thousands of individuals have in the past, and currently are experiencing horrendous conditions in our current system, due to the fact that they don't have a State Advocate on their behalf. This bill will provide that for thousands in Virginia. This bill will address the inequities and injustices thousands face in the current pretrial system, where 80% of detainees are indigent, where Pretrial Assessment tools are racist and bias, the lack of quality Legal Representation, and all this disproportionately affects Black folks, people of color, and the poor! I urge the House to pass SB 1442!!!

Last Name: Gaborik Locality: Richmond

SB 1266 - Removing the presumption against bail allows for Judges to evaluate bail in a more fair and just manner which aligns with the core tenet of presumption of innocence. Judges can and should be allowed to determine bail on a case by case basis without being forced to start at a presumption against bond. Arbitrary pretrial incarceration makes it difficult for defendant's to assist in their defense and can lead to mental health and medical issues associated with the poor treatment of inmates, especially during a pandemic. SB1315 - Our justice system must include language that allows for the defendant's mental health to be addressed during the case in chief. This bill allows for our state to become more in line with the Model Penal Code. I have had dozens of cases as a criminal defense attorney over the last two decades where an individual with significant mental health issues did not meet the very rigid and narrow definition of insanity and instead were incarcerated for substantial amounts of time after a guilty verdict. These individuals should have been able to present evidence of their mental health at the time of the offense when determining guilt or innocence. It was a travesty of justice that they could not and it is time for Virginia to recognize the need to give those suffering from mental health other avenues for justice. SB1442 - As a former public defender in the City of Richmond I encourage the members of this Committee to vote in support of a Public Defender's Office in the County of Chesterfield. I practice frequently in this County and can say the level of representation by the court appointed counsel is substantially hindered by the lack of resources and low pay for these attorneys. A Public Defender's Office helps level the playing field for indigent defendants by providing those resources currently not available to court appointed counsel, as well as, not making counsel dependent upon the Judge for their source of income. A defendant represented by a Public Defender would have access to an investigator in their case, regardless of the severity. Currently, only the most serious of charges warrants the granting of funds for an investigator. This means defendant's facing misdemeanors and low level felonies, that could result in jail time, do not have access to an investigator who could help locate witnesses, canvas scenes, and provide other pretrial work the attorney cannot or should not be doing. Additionally, the Public Defender's office would have mitigation specialists on staff to help with complex cases or complex defendant's who need more help at the pretrial or sentencing phase of a case. Additionally, thanks to the substantial number of Public Defender Offices across the state attorneys would have access to brief and motions banks for trial and appellate purposes. Lastly, attorneys in this office would have supervision and daily oversight to insure they are held to the high standards put in place by the Indigent Defense Commission for representation of their clients. Real reform of our justice system must include the ability to have counsel that is both qualified and has the resources necessary to be effective in their representation. Thank you.

SB1468 - Victims of crime; certifications for victims of qualifying criminal activity.
Last Name: DeBoard Organization: Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police (VACP) Locality: Herndon

The VACP supports SB 1329. We feel that the passage of this bill will eliminate unnecessary and avoidable confrontations with citizens. The refusal of an individual to sign a summons does not negate their responsibility to either prepay their fine or appear in court at the listed date and time. We feel this is a positive piece of legislation in line with other police reform bills. The VACP supports the concept of SB 1468 but continues to have concerns about language in a specific part of this bill. The bill states that we have to sign these certification forms if the applicant is a victim of a qualifying crime. There are two other reasons we can and are expected to deny signing a U-Visa certification form: if the victim failed to cooperate or they have been involved and convicted in serious crimes themselves. The language in question is found in lines 66-70, which states: “If the certifying official cannot determine whether the applicant is a victim of qualifying criminal activity or determines that the applicant does not qualify, the certifying official shall provide a written explanation to the person or the person's representative setting forth reasons why the available evidence does not support a finding that the person is a victim of qualifying criminal activity.” What needs to be added to the end of this sentence is “… or otherwise does not qualify.” This additional language is needed to provide chiefs or other certifying authorities the ability to deny signing these forms when they don’t meet any one of the qualifications, not just whether they are a victim of a certifying crime. For example, we cannot sign a form knowing a victim has not cooperated or refused to cooperate just because they were a victim. The code section needs to be more clear here to ensure we are not being required to put our signatures on a form when we know that someone fails one of the tests to qualify. We want to help our immigrant communities and provide them fair and consistent access to this federal process and we support requiring that agencies have a process in place to process these certification forms and publicly post these procedures. We do, however, want to ensure we are not making this process subject to additional abuse and fraud. We cannot sign these forms simply because they were a victim of a qualifying crime. They must also meet the other standards at the time that the forms are presented to us. From an integrity standpoint, we cannot put our signatures on a form that supports someone who we know is not cooperating

Last Name: Dana Schrad Organization: Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and Foundation, Inc. Locality: Glen Allen

The VACP supports the concept of this bill but continues to have concerns about language in a specific part of this bill. We previously asked that this language be addressed. The bill states that we have to sign these certification forms if the applicant is a victim of a qualifying crime. There are two other reasons we can and are expected to deny signing a U-Visa certification form: if the victim failed to cooperate or they have been involved and convicted in serious crimes themselves. The language in question is found in lines 66-70, which states: “If the certifying official cannot determine whether the applicant is a victim of qualifying criminal activity or determines that the applicant does not qualify, the certifying official shall provide a written explanation to the person or the person's representative setting forth reasons why the available evidence does not support a finding that the person is a victim of qualifying criminal activity.” What needs to be added to the end of this sentence is “… or otherwise does not qualify.” This additional language is needed to provide chiefs or other certifying authorities the ability to deny signing these forms when they don’t meet any one of the qualifications, not just whether they are a victim of a certifying crime. For example, we cannot sign a form knowing a victim has not cooperated or refused to cooperate just because they were a victim. The code section needs to be more clear here to ensure we are not being required to put our signatures on a form when we know that someone fails one of the tests to qualify. We want to help our immigrant communities and provide them fair and consistent access to this federal process and we support requiring that agencies have a process in place to process these certification forms and publicly post these procedures. We do, however, want to ensure we are not making this process subject to additional abuse and fraud. We cannot sign these forms simply because they were a victim of a qualifying crime. They must also meet the other standards at the time that the forms are presented to us. From an integrity standpoint, we cannot put our signatures on a form that supports someone who we know is not cooperating.

Last Name: DeBoard Organization: Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police (VACP) Locality: Herndon

The VACP supports the concept of this bill but continues to have concerns about language in a specific part of this bill. We previously asked that this language be addressed but it has not been amended. The bill says we have to sign these certification forms if the applicant is a victim of a qualifying crime. There are two other reasons we can and are expected to deny signing a U-Visa certification form: if the victim failed to cooperate or they have been involved and convicted in serious crimes themselves. Lines 66-70 state: “If the certifying official cannot determine whether the applicant is a victim of qualifying criminal activity or determines that the applicant does not qualify, the certifying official shall provide a written explanation to the person or the person's representative setting forth reasons why the available evidence does not support a finding that the person is a victim of qualifying criminal activity.” What needs to be added to the end of this sentence is “… or otherwise does not qualify.” This additional language is needed to provide chiefs or other certifying authorities the ability to deny signing these forms when they don’t meet any one of the qualifications, not just whether they are a victim of a certifying crime. For example, we cannot sign a form knowing a victim has not cooperated or refused to cooperate just because they were a victim. The code section needs to be more clear here to ensure we are not being required to put our signatures on a form when we know that someone fails one of the tests to qualify. We want to help our immigrant communities to have access to this process and we support requiring that agencies have a process in place to process these certification forms and publicly post these procedures. We do, however, want to ensure we are not making this process subject to additional abuse and fraud. We cannot sign these forms simply for them qualifying. They must meet the other standards at the time that the forms are presented to us. From an integrity standpoint, I cannot put my signature on a form that supports someone who I know is not cooperating.

Last Name: Larios Organization: Murray Osorio PLLC Locality: FAIRFAX

My name is Cindy Larios and I'm an immigration attorney in Fairfax, VA. I'm here today to speak in support of SB 1468. Prior to moving back to my home state of Virginia, I was practicing law in Chicago, IL, working primarily with survivors of human trafficking and sexual assault. In 2018, IL passed the VOICES act, which is similar to the bill proposed today. The VOICES act was proposed and passed because throughout IL, victims of these horrific crimes were being largely ignored by law enforcement agencies in certain regions of the state. Prior to the VOICES act, advocates were met with a great deal of resistance from certain law enforcement agencies when requesting a certification. Resistance ranging from a lack of training or understanding of the certification which caused agencies to not have protocols in place to assist victims, to outright refusals to entertain certification requests based on bipartisan opinions on immigration. These are issues which we here in Virginia encounter every day when assisting victims. Since the VOICES Act passed in Illinois, some of the most important improvements we saw in included that: 1) counties and agencies that previously refused to cooperate with victims and advocates started to respond. This created an open line of communication with law enforcement agencies and allowed for training on the issues; 2) some rural counties have used the VOICES act as a blueprint to better support and engage the immigrant victims of crime in their jurisdiction; 3) even when certifications are denied, giving a victim a reason why has been incredibly helpful not just for the victim but also for the law enforcement agencies. One notable reason is that it has allowed for criminal cases to be re-opened when lack of victim cooperation was due to a simple mistake in the noted contact information. I want these same improvements for Virginia. Just a few weeks ago, I received a denial of certification request for a Virginia resident who was the victim of domestic violence. This victim reported one of the many assaults, obtained an order of protection, and assisted in the prosecution of her abuser. After receiving the denial, I called the police department and was bounced around to two officers who each told me they were not aware why the request was denied. One officer however, stated he would look into it and get back to me. I then received an email from him ending with, “this Police Department does not offer an explanation for the decision to sign or to not sign a certification.” Our victims simply deserve more.

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