THE VIRGINIA WATCHDOG
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03/15/08 - FROM THE EDITOR OF THIS SITE
Apparently Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine was absent from his Harvard Law School class when they covered Constitutional law.
On March 11, Kaine signed into law a bill that violates this web site's and my First and Fourteenth Amendments rights as well as rights protected under the Constitution of Virginia.
Two identical bills introduced in the 2008 Virginia General Assembly session have been coined "The BJ Ostergren bills" since they are directly aimed at me and The Virginia Watchdog web site. The sole patron of SB133 is not a lawyer, but certainly he has no excuse for violating this site's rights since there are many lawyers down at the General Assembly and the Attorney General's office who could offer some advice about constitutional law.
The chief patron of HB 633 is also not a lawyer; however, some of the co-patrons are lawyers and should have known they were supporting a bill which surely cannot pass constitutional muster. The lawyers who need to give up their law licenses for being seemingly ignorant are: Del. Clifford Athey, Jr. who got a degree from the University of Dayton (Ohio) School of Law and Del. C. Todd Gilbert who got his degree from Southern Methodist University (TX) School of Law.
Wonder where those two were during their constitutional law classes? Maybe they were like Gov. Kaine and skipped that class entirely. But isn't it a required course?
Also, apparently, my own state Senator, lawyer and former Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Ryan McDougle, was absent from the same class at Marshall-Wythe School of Law at William & Mary since he voted to take away my First and 14th Amendment rights, too, along with Hanover County Del. Frank Hargrove, Sr. (not a lawyer) and Del. Chris Peace a lawyer licensed only by the Washington, D.C. Bar. Perhaps he didn't take constitutional law classes either at the schools he attended - Regent University School of Law (first year of law school) and then University of Richmond School of Law. Perhaps that is why he has not been able to pass the Virginia Bar. Maybe the constitutional law questions are what helped him fail to pass the Virginia Bar exam twice.
There have been U.S. Supreme Court cases regarding the publication of public records held by courts and also Federal court cases including one in 2003 that clearly state it is against the Constitution to punish the "the communication of truthful lawfully-obtained, publicly-available information" which is exactly what these records are that this new law seeks to stop this site from publishing.
By the General Assembly unanimously passing these two bills and by the Governor signing one of them into law on March 11th, they have now granted the exclusive right to all public bodies as defined under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act to publish and disseminate Social Security numbers but not me. These public bodies of the state are the very ones that the General Assembly should have mandated to stop publishing Social Security numbers via the internet, but the legislators didn't do that. And a couple years ago they actually gave the Clerks double immunity for publishing the records online complete with SSNs, DOBs, etc.
That same 2003 Federal Court case opinion also says "Likewise, there is cause for concern when the legislature enacts a statute proscribing a type of political speech in a concerted effort to silence particular speakers."
One U.S. Supreme Court case - Cox Broadcasting v. Cohn - from 1975 states this - "Once true information is disclosed in public court documents open to public inspection, the press cannot be sanctioned for publishing it." Guess no one down at the General Assembly stumbled upon that case.
The patrons of both bills and also other committee members were addressed on December 10, 2007 at two separate committee hearings down at the General Assembly office building and advised that they were embarking on a path to take away this writer's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and also the rights to a free press of The Virginia Watchdog web site.
Obviously, not one of their "legal eagles" bothered to research this fully. However, when I testified I told them of Supreme Court cases and the Federal court case mentioned above. They didn't bother to listen.
And Gov. Kaine didn't bother to listen either (and apparently didn't care) when the ACLU of Virginia put out this press release on March 6th and also wrote him a letter that day warning that if he signed the bill there would be a Federal Court case to challenge the constitutionality of the new law.
Bottom line is that the General Assembly wants the Circuit Court Clerks on their remote access/online records systems to publish citizens' final divorce decrees, judgments, tax liens, mortgages, deeds, name change documents, Wills, powers of attorney, UCCs, and any other documents that the Clerks hold which are not sealed by a judge, but they do not want this web site to publish their (the legislators') very own documents showing their personal information like Social Security numbers. Clearly no one else in this state except me has done what they are aiming to silence.
If the Clerks can publish online a record which is already in general circulation, then shouldn't this web site be able to do the same even if it affects Virginia legislators who could have done more over the past ten years to protect records with personal info that some crooks could use for fraudulent purposes like identity theft? Clearly they don't like having their own public information that is already in general circulation published on my site.
The Virginia Watchdog website only published these records as a way to alert the public that their own DOB, SSN, signature, minor child's name, mother's maiden name, and financial account numbers may be online already since 84 Clerks are already offering online access to the records and the rest of the Clerks have to activate their sites and offer online access by July 1, 2008.
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