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Lawyers in the General Assembly

     The Virginia Lawyers Weekly Blog recently highlighted a statistical piece of news that was discussed at the Roanoke Bar Association meeting, The topic of analysis,  “The Virginia General Assembly need more lawyers”.

     When you just read that sentence, how did it hit you? By the comments at the end of the VLW Blog, it seems that most opinions are based on whether the person posting is a lawyer. First, in considering the need for more lawyers, how many lawyers do you think are currently in the General Assembly? Answer: less than one out of three legislators in both the House and Senate.  Specifically, twenty-nine percent of the legislature are lawyers.

     According to the blog, soon the House Courts Committee will probably be made up of a majority of non-lawyers. Compare that statistic to a sample of bills before that Committee to see if you think it makes any difference in reviewing bills. To find the legislation information, I went to RichmondSunlight.com. It listed the following five bills that have generated the most interest:

  • SB981: Handheld personal communications devices; unlawful to use on school property or crossing, etc.
  • HB1570: Dismissal of action by nonsuit; fees and costs.
  • HB1981: Electronic tracking devices; person who installs, etc., without consent, Class 3 misdemeanor.
  • HB1652: Electronic filing in civil proceedings; certain circuit court clerks may charge an additional fee.
  • HB1584: Digital accounts and assets; enables a fiduciary to gain access

     When considering the necessity of having lawyers in the General Assembly, non-lawyer Delegate Chris Head described why he thinks it’s helpful to have lawyers to “wordsmith” legislation. He cited his recent bill that was designed to make it a criminal offense to sell alcohol to underage customers without first a showing of some identification with “bona fide evidence of legal age”. Under that language, any store clerk could have been convicted, even if they had been fooled by  professionally prepared fake I.D. cards. The language was fixed so as to remove that harsh burden on clerks.

     In the comments to the blog, one person gave a different opinion directly opposite to Delegate Head by reciting the benefits of having less lawyers. As she put it, “when lawyers create the law, they do it in their language, which is not necessarily the language of the land. No wonder the citizen, who must live by the law, cannot comprehend it.”  A reminder that many non-lawyers would be unsympathetic to the call for more lawyers in the General Assembly.

     For pic o’ day, maybe something missing at this workplace???

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