We know it’s coming. It’s time to flex West Virginia’s state sovereignty, and it begins with our Legislature. Take a look at the West Virginia Citizen’s Defense League’s flagship proposed legislation for the 2021 legislative session, and make sure that your representatives know that they’re expected to enact it into law. This is about more than just the “sanctuary” b.s. This bill asserts the state’s prerogative to enforce its own laws, and no one else’s. They’re already shutting down your oil and gas jobs, as well as forcing transgender athletes into women’s sports in West Virginia. You know what’s next. Let’s be proactive.
The WVCDL is your best source of solid, objective, educational information, and bill tracking when it comes to firearms and 2A (WV 3-22) related legislation. We’ll keep you posted on the good, the bad, and the neutral. Some bills sound great but in reality, don’t accomplish tangible benefits for the law abiding gun owners of WV. Some bills have unintended consequences and as subject matter experts, we do our best to help bring those concerns to the attention of legislators.All of this takes the entire membership. Absolutely no one in the WVCDL is paid to any of the work we do. We are 100% volunteer and we absolutely need YOU to help for the most successful session possible. Do not make the mistake of thinking someone else will pick up your slack. WE NEED YOU. We are a grassroots organization and it is YOU when you all come together to advocate with your legislators for change…..
I realized that I never posted about oral arguments in the Wayne County case, nor the Supreme Court decision which was handed down while we were driving home. On Tuesday, oral arguments were held, for around an hour, which seemed to me to go very well. I honestly was surprised to find out that they had ruled against us. Here’s the debrief video I made that evening, which includes an excerpt of my rebuttal arguments during the oral arguments hearing:
If I had to guess, I would speculate that they found a procedural means to rule against us, such as standing, or perhaps the existence of the so-called “second signature,” where my client unknowingly signed the letter presented to the Governor by the State GOP. At least I hope so, because otherwise the Court will have modified legislation from the bench – because the law was very clearly on our side.
Here are some of the media reports from the day:
For about an hour earlier this afternoon, lawyers for Governor Justice and the West Virginia Republican Party presented arguments against a lawyer for the chairman of the Wayne County Republican Executive Committee.
A few weeks ago, the governor picked Booth, whose family runs a highway safety contracting business, to fill the vacancy. But Booth’s name had not appeared on a list originally submitted by Wayne County political leaders.
The argument before justices focused on who has the authority to submit names to fill such vacancies and the proper procedure for doing so.
“This is one political party committee that is elected by Wayne County voters engaged in a power grab or attempted control by the state executive committee that has no direct connection to the local Wayne County voters,” said John Bryan, counsel for the Wayne County GOP chairman.
“That is the whole point: that they ended up with somebody they voted for or necessarily even knew but they ended up with somebody that, according to the records, donated to Governor Justice when he ran for office in 2016 as a Democrat.”
He was referring to records showing Booth as a $1,000 maximum-amount donor to Justice’s first run, when he won as a Democrat before changing parties after a few months.
I was obviously freshly perturbed when I gave this interview:
Attorney John Bryan, who is representing Maynard, was disappointed by the ruling.
“The governor has been able to get around the law whenever he pleases for the past year now,” Bryan told The West Virginia Record. “When the full opinion is issued, I suppose we’ll find out how he did it this time. … State laws throughout the country were not followed in the 2020 election, and not a court in the land seems to care.”
This morning we submitted a Reply to the WV Supreme Court to the brief submitted by the State GOP in the lawsuit we filed against the Governor in the District 19 legislative vacancy dispute. Here is the filing, which hopefully clears up the confusion and uncertainty between the legal structure and authorities of state political party committees and local political party committees. As discussed in the last post on the topic, everyone from the top down seems to be confused. Hopefully this clears things up.
It should be noted that there are 100 legislative districts in the WV House of Delegates, each representing about 18,000 voters. 43 out of the 100 districts are contained wholly within a single county, and therefore vacancy nominations for those 43 single-county districts go to the county political executive committee. The state committee has no authority under the law to inject a veto or control the process. If the State GOP is allowed to do so, that would equal roughly 774,000 voters who lose their representation in vacancy nomination decisions. Note: the Democrat Party has not attempted to inject their state committee into the local legislative vacancy process.
Here’s my handy diagram on how all political party committees are structured under West Virginia law. Note that all committees have the right to elect their own officers, make their own internal rules, and contain a body of voting members elected by voters. They are limited, however, in that they cannot create internal rules that are inconsistent with state law.
Therefore, while the State GOP claims to be able to control the legislative vacancy process through making new bylaws, their argument is flawed because doing so is entirely inconsistent with State Code, which gives the local committees exclusive authority to nominate seat vacancies. You can’t get around that by changing the internal rules in the bylaws. That seems obvious, but apparently they did it anyways…..
The Supplemental Appendix (Exhibits) referenced in the Reply:
Oral arguments are currently scheduled for Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. at the WV Supreme Court. It should be available live on the Court’s website. I go over many of these details in the live video from Wednesday night. Not the most exciting topic, but important:
Now there’s national attention on our supposed “fracture” in the West Virginia GOP caused by our Governor and the State Party interfering with local voters’ statutory right to choose the candidates for replacement of a legislative vacancy within their county:
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — On a beach vacation in South Carolina with his family, Jay Marcum was awaiting a call from the governor of West Virginia. He was a finalist for the vacant seat of a state legislator who resigned after being charged with illegally entering the U.S. Capitol in the Jan. 6 riot. Instead, state Republican leaders ordered a redo on candidate applications and insisted Marcum return home for an in-person interview.
“I don’t really understand why we can’t do a Zoom,” he told them. Nevertheless, the 51-year-old small-business owner packed up his disappointed children and left Myrtle Beach at 6 a.m. for the nine-hour trip home.
Ultimately, his journey was for naught: Republican Gov. Jim Justice ended up appointing neither Marcum nor either of the two other candidates who had been placed on a shortlist by GOP party leaders in Wayne County, where the delegate seat is located. Justice instead appointed a political neophyte, enraging Republicans in the rural county and unleashing accusations of subterfuge and backdoor politics in the Mountain State.
If you want to understand more about this, and even compare what the Republicans have done to their own constituents this past year by attempting to usurp the process with their bylaws, you very well might be outraged at what they’ve done. You’re probably not even aware of it though, because it’s been well hidden in the swamp water.
There’s a giant red herring in this case, disguising a massive power grab that is occurring right before our eyes.
The Governor, the Attorney General and the State GOP are either intentionally, or mistakenly, operating under the premise that a county party executive committee in West Virginia is somehow a subcommittee and subservient to the state party executive committee (or as the State GOP terms it, “subordinate”). What’s being lost in the mix – perhaps by design – is that a county party executive committee, or even a delegate or senatorial district committee, is a separate organization – a separate committee – from that of the state party. It is not a subcommittee of the state executive committee. Nor is it subservient to the state executive committee.
Don’t quite understand? Let’s get into the weeds….
The State Republican Executive Committee has its bylaws, which it can amend, revise, or modify. Likewise, the Wayne County Republican Executive Committee has its own bylaws. The state committee cannot modify the county committee’s bylaws. Nor can the county committee modify the state committee’s bylaws. Perhaps I need to make a diagram. Let’s try this (not drawn to scale, LOL):
Now…. so if Delegate Sniffy McSniffer resigns his theoretical seat in the WV House of Delegates, and his seat district lies in 2 or more counties (so “multi-county”), the executive committee that would convene and perform the process of choosing 3 qualified candidates for presentment to the Governor for his appointment, would be Sniffy McSniffer’s district executive committee, organized and created under W. Va Code §3-1-9(b) (see above handy diagram), and comprised of elected local members from those districts (in two or more different counties). Since the legislative district is multi-county, it has its own executive committee elected (because it can’t logically or technically be done in just one county executive committee).
Then…. so if Delegate Rusty Shackleford resigns his theoretical seat in the WV House of Delegates shortly after Delegate McSniffer, there’s another legislative vacancy which needs to be filled pursuant to the process outlined by state code in W. Va. Code § 3-10-5. This is the same code section, but different executive committee. Why? Because Delegate Shackleford’s legislative district lies wholly within one county. Therefore, since it’s not a multi-county district, pursuant to W. Va Code §3-1-9(c) (see handy chart above) the elected committee members (still elected by party voters at their local precincts) are all already members of the county executive committee of that particular county.
There is no separate executive committee for those districts. They are technically just subcommittees of the county executive committee (assuming all of the county members don’t reside in the vacant legislative district). Thus, Del. Shackleford’s replacement is chosen by the county executive committee, at a meeting convened of its members who reside in the vacant district. They vote, and then that executive committee conveys the nominees to the Governor for his appointment of one of those qualified individuals.
The state code for legislative vacancy replacement is clear: it’s the elected local committee members who make the nominations, whether via their own multi-county executive committee, or via the county executive committee for single-county districts. Which brings us to the real problem here: the State GOP has engaged in an attempted power grab to give itself a veto and technical control over this vacancy replacement process. This is what the State GOP inserted into their bylaws (i.e., not the bylaws of county and district committees which are separate political committees under state law):
Section 4. Vacancy in the State Legislature: Wherever else public or Party law requires the filling of an elected office by a Party Committee, the State Senate Executive Committee or House of Delegate Executive Committee, whatever the case may be, shall fulfil their obligations in accordance with state law as provided in this rule….
(c) The State Party Chairman, or their designee, shall facilitate the process of conducting interviews and filling such office by whatever means necessary, which shall include but is not limited to, facilitating and conducting the interviews, calling special meetings of the District Vacancy Committee, and certifying the results of such committee meetings to the Governor. The State Chairman shall take care to see that each candidate nominated by the Republican Party for such office is constitutionally eligible.
(d) The State Chairman and State Party Staff shall, in consultation with the elected Chair of the District Vacancy Committee, prepare a list of questions that will be asked of candidates during their interview process. The State Chairman and State Party Staff shall ensure that there is adequate public notice of such vacancy and that there are at least Seventy-two (72) hours between the time that the notice is posted publicly and the time that the application period closes.
a. The nomination of such candidates for a vacancy shall occur in the following manner:
i. If there are three (3) candidates who have applied, the Vacancy Committee need not convene, unless called to do so by the State Chair, the District Vacancy Chair, or upon the application of forty percent (40%) of the members of the District Vacancy Committee. In such cases, should there be only three candidates, and the committee is not called, the State Chairman shall certify those three names to the Governor and shall provide a copy to the Secretary of State.
ii. If there are less than three (3) candidates, the Vacancy District Committee shall convene and endeavor to fill the remaining slots from a list of eligible registered Republicans who are constitutionally eligible to hold such office and are registered to vote in and reside in the District from which the vacancy arises.
iii. If there are more than three (3) candidates who apply for such office, interviews will be conducted in person at a location in the District, unless such district is within twenty-five (25) miles of the State Party Headquarters, at which point the interviews shall be conducted at State Party Headquarters. All interviews will be uniform and no candidate shall be asked different questions, questioned by individual committee members, or be given more or less time. Upon the conclusion of the interviews, the District Vacancy Committee shall deliberate and choose three candidates to submit to the Governor. The District Vacancy Committee shall vote by blank ballot and no name shall be placed on the list submitted to the Governor unless they receive a majority of votes cast. The members of the District Vacancy Committee shall vote for up to three candidates on the first round of balloting. If any candidate receives a majority of votes cast, that candidate shall be nominated and their name shall be removed from the next round of voting. In succeeding rounds of balloting, the committee members shall only be allowed to vote for the number of slots left to nominate. In each succeeding round of balloting, the candidate receiving the fewest votes shall be eliminated for the next round of balloting, unless there are multiple candidates who receive the fewest amounts of votes. This process shall continue indefinitely until a slate of three (3) candidates is nominated.
iv. Upon the conclusion of the committee interviews and action, the State Chairman, District Vacancy Committee Chairman (or Vice Chair in the absence of the Chair), and District Vacancy Committee Secretary shall certify, by letter on State Party letterhead, the list of three (3) names for such vacancy. This letter shall be filed by the State Party Staff within twenty-four (24) hours of the letter being signed by all three officers. All letters and certification papers shall be filed with the Governor of West Virginia and the West Virginia Secretary of State.
v.In any case where there is no Senate Vacancy Committee or Delegate Vacancy Committee due to the district being wholly within one county, the County Chair shall appoint a subcommittee which shall act as the vacancy committee and the process of such committee be facilitated by the County Chair and State Chair. In such case, the names of the three (3) nominated candidates shall be certified by the County Chair, County Secretary, and State Chair.
Note that last subsection….They’ve gone completely power mad. But this is where they’re saying that there’s a requirement that the State Chair must be involved and certify the process, etc. It’s in their own new insane bylaws – not state code, nor in county/district bylaws!
So, can the State GOP do that? They’ve effectively changed W. Va. Code § 3-10-5, which gives the local executive committees (whether county or multi-county local legislative district) the important authority of vetting and nominating their local candidates. W. Va. Code § 3-10-5 does not give the state executive committee that authority. Even the new aggressive State GOP bylaws recognize this authority:
ARTICLE XIII – Regulation of Subordinate Party Executive Committees
Section 1. Jurisdiction. In the interest of effective organization and party harmony, the State Executive Committee and its Chairman shall and will exercise jurisdiction, control and authority over the County, Senatorial, Delegate District, and Congressional Committees of the Republican Party in West Virginia in all matters having to do with: (i) the filling of vacancies when any such Committee is unable to do so, (ii) the election of any officer of the committee in the event of a tie vote, and (iii) of any other matter of the business of any such committee which in the opinion of the State Executive Committee or the State Chairman shall be of sufficient importance to the Republican party to require removal from local consideration and action by the State Executive Committee.
Note that the State GOP uses the word “subordinate” in their new bylaws. That word does not come from W. Va Code §3-1-9 (see chart above). However, it clearly expresses their attitude towards local elected committee members. But even in these outrageous bylaws, they are required to acknowledge that they can only possibly attempt to intervene “when any such Committee is unable to do so,” or some other situation of “sufficient importance” in the opinion of the State GOP. Again, this is authorized nowhere in the State Code, which created a state executive committee and other county and district executive committees separate and apart from each other – not “subordinate.”
Even assuming the questionable legality of these Myanmar style bylaws, there are still due process protections for the peasant local committee members (who mind you, are the only ones elected by the people of that district – unlike the state committee members from the 54 other counties):
Section 2. Temporary Exigent Jurisdiction. If, in the opinion of the Chairman of the State Executive Committee, time is of the essence in regard to the issue or issues in controversy, the Chairman may exercise discretion to resolve the issue or issues in controversy, on a temporary basis by taking such action as they may deem in the best interests of the Republican Party by filling any vacancy, naming any officer, or taking what other action may be provident and they shall notify in writing the members of any subordinate committee of their action within ten (10) days thereafter, which action shall become final and binding upon the County, Senatorial, Delegate District, or Congressional Committees of the Republican Party in West Virginia and their members, unless a notice of appeal in writing filed by no less that 50 percent of the members of any such committee is filed with the Secretary of the State Committee within ten (10) days after the date of mailing of the notice, as herein above provided for, by the said Chairman to the members of such committee. Such notice of appeal to the Secretary shall be sent by certified or registered mail. Any such action taken by the Chairman in accordance with the terms of this section shall be in full force and effect from the date of his action until any appeal therefrom is adjudicated in accordance with the provisions of section three hereof.
Section 3. When any such question or controversy arises in any such County, Senatorial, Delegate District, or Congressional Committee, which the Chairman deems not to require immediate action upon his part as provided for in section two, or if written notice of appeal has been properly filed, as herein before provided for, from any decision of the Chairman made according to the provisions of Article XII, Section 2 of these Bylaws, the Chairman of the State Executive Committee shall appoint a panel of four members who, with such Chairman, shall constitute a Board of Arbitration to hear evidence on the issue. After hearing all the evidence of any and all parties in interest, the Board shall by secret ballot decide the issue in writing and such decision shall be final and binding upon all parties concerned.
Just briefly going back to the questionable legality of this, since the 55 county executive committees, as well as the numerous legislative district executive committees, now have these new rules hoisted upon them, did they consent to this transfer of power? Pursuant to W. Va Code §3-1-9(g), each of these committees, like the state executive committee, has their own independent officers, organization and political divisions. Many, such as the county in dispute in this case, have their own bylaws. Now all of a sudden, the state gets to step in, and there’s an “arbitration board” just to make things really difficult?
County and local legislative district political committees are not subcommittees of the state executive committee, but rather separate political committees, independent and different than the state committee.
According to the state code which created all of these committees, pursuant to W. Va Code §3-1-11, no political committee – state included – can modify their bylaws in such a way as to be “inconsistent” with, or “in contravention” with (e.g. violation of) state code.
So now you understand the red herring here: whether on purpose or by misunderstanding, the Wayne County Republican Executive Committee was refused an appointment of their vetted and nominated list of three qualified candidates. This wasn’t just because the Governor and/or the State GOP didn’t like anyone on the list, but more importantly (and more mischievously) because as of the Summer of 2020, the State GOP has engaged in a power grab in the vacancy process, attempting to take authority from local elected committee members, who know their constituents and candidates, and placing that authority in state party political leaders from outside that constituency, and who are un-elected by that constituency.
Why doesn’t the state party just go ahead and substitute themselves in for individual voters in general – at least for the primaries. They know best, right? The voters don’t understand what’s best for the party. It’s about the big picture…. In case you’ve forgotten, by the way, the legal structure of party political committees applies to all political parties. Believe it or not, Democrat voters have not been disenfranchised in this way and strong-armed by their state executive committee. You can review the Democrat state executive committee bylaws here. They don’t contain any attempts by the state party to usurp the authority of the county or district members. In fact, this is all I could find, as far as interference:
4. Vacancies: If a County Executive Committee fails to meet its obligation to fill a vacancy on the committee within 60 days of the vacancy occurring the State Chair may appoint a replacement.
And mind you, that’s for vacancies on the county executive committees – not vacancies for the legislature. They don’t even have any provision whatsoever providing that the state committee can interfere, or even participate, with that process. After all, that would be “in contravention” of state law placing that authority at the county level, would it not?
I’m working hard on reacting to what has been submitted by the State GOP here – and mind you, so I’m told, even the Democrats agree with Wayne County here – so as a part of that process, I am presenting the affidavit of my client, detailing exactly what happened, and providing the troubling details omitted by the State GOP surrounding the execution of the second list of candidates sent to the Governor by the State GOP:
Just a little while ago we received the Governor’s response to our Petition for Writ of Mandamus in the Wayne County Delegate District 19 dispute. It was drafted and submitted by the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office.
I’ll note that the response accuses us of misreading the statute. In reality, they misunderstand the differences between multi-county delegate districts and delegate districts contained wholly within a single county. Where a district resides wholly inside one county, it is the county executive committee which presides over those committee members from that county in calling a meeting and voting on new candidates to provide to the Governor.
In any case where there is no Senate Vacancy Committee or Delegate Vacancy Committee due to the district being wholly within one county, the County Chair shall appoint a subcommittee which shall act as the vacancy committee and the process of such committee be facilitated by the County Chair and State Chair. In such case, the names of the three (3) nominated candidates shall be certified by the County Chair, County Secretary, and State Chair.
BYLAWS OF REPUBLICAN STATE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF WEST VIRGINIA, Section 4(d)(a)(v).
Understand that the state code does not get involved in the logistics of how the applicable district committee members, who are elected by the voters of their districts, vote – just that they get to choose three candidates for the Governor’s consideration. It’s the County Party that conducts the district committee member meeting – not the State Party. This is consistent with how it was always done in the past for these single-county districts. Although the State Party changed their bylaws at some point to give themselves involvement in local decisions, and to require their own signature and involvement in the internal process, state law was not changed.
The Wayne County Chair, Jeff Maynard, sent a copy of the list of candidates to both the Governor and to the Acting Chair of the State Party. This was after the four person delegate district committee deliberated and voted on the three candidates to send to the Governor. But the Governor didn’t choose. After the statutory five day period expired for the Governor to make a choice from the candidates, the County Chair was contacted by the Governor’s office, and told that a re-do was necessary, according to the State Party.
As you know by now, this resulted in a different name being added in place of Jay Marcum, with a vote of only two committee members, this time, rather than the original total of four members from Delegate District 19’s first meeting. As we know, that’s the name chosen by the Governor.
If it was just a matter of adding the State Party’s Acting Chair signature, he could have done so at any time. If the State Party wanted to formally deliver the list of three candidates in a separate letter, with their signature and with what they believed was appropriate letterhead, they could have done so at any time within the statutory period. Instead, they waited until five days expired from the Governor receiving the first list, and they scrapped the entire thing and started over – ultimately culminating in the addition of only one name, who was chosen by the Governor.
It’s apparent to anyone watching that the problem for the Governor and the State Party was not a procedural one – but rather a substantive one: they didn’t want to choose any of the three candidates. They wanted someone entirely different. Whether they had the ultimate choice in mind, or whether they decided that later, is probably known only to them. And also irrelevant to state law.
As reported by the West Virginia Record, in 2018, when the Governor approved from a list of three candidates from the Wood County Party to replace the vacancy following the death of Del. Deem, the Governor made a choice off that list, submitted without any signature or involvement of the State Party. The Governor was photographed by the media, smiling with his choice of appointment from the County Party’s list. However, in this case, with Wayne County, the Governor refused to make a choice until Wayne County’s list was submitted by the State Party with a different name, which he would ultimately pick:
“This list was sent in by the Wood County Republican Executive Committee, following the death of Delegate Frank Deem, who had passed away on October 10, 2018. The news media reported the fact that the county chose the list of three qualified replacements from which the Governor would be choosing. There was no mention of the state party, or the state chair.”
Bryan questions why the governor didn’t ask for a letter that included the state party in the 2018 Wood County situation.
“He made a choice and he seemed happy with it,” Bryan wrote. “I guess he liked one of the options in Wood County’s list, as opposed to Wayne County’s list. What does Wayne County know? They’re probably a bunch of hayseeds.”
Another thing that is concerning about the Attorney General’s response on behalf of the Governor, is that they argue that the first letter from Wayne County was “unsigned.” It actually wasn’t. It was signed by the Wayne County Chair. I wonder why the Governor didn’t show the AG the actual letter he received? Did the Governor’s Office never show the Attorney General the first letter?
Update 2/1/21 6:51 p.m.: the State GOP’s Response to the petition as an Intervenor:
The Governor’s office and the WV Attorney General’s Office claims that the State Republican Party Executive Committee had to be involved in the selection process for the candidates submitted to the Governor for the vacancy created by the resignation of Derrick Evans. They told the Wayne County Republican Party Chair that he did it wrong; that they had to re-do the process and re-submit the candidates, which culminated in a new name being added to the list of three choices. As you know, if you’ve watched West Virginia media this week, the Governor chose the new candidate added to the second list.
Was there really a problem with the first letter submitted to the Governor? Here is the letter sent to the Governor from the Wayne County Chair, which was alleged to have mistakenly left out the State party:
This first letter was marked as received by the Governor’s office on January 14, 2021. I wonder why the Governor couldn’t make a choice from this list? Take a look at another letter submitted to him in the past from a county party chair. The Governor chose from this list, submitted to him from Wood County, back in October of 2018. It looks pretty similar:
This list was sent in by the Wood County Republican Executive Committee, following the death of Delegate Frank Deem, who had passed away on October 10, 2018. The news media reported the fact that the COUNTY chose the list of 3 qualified replacements from which the Governor would be choosing. There was no mention of the state party, or the state chair.
Did the Governor send this 2018 list back for alterations, revisions, or additions? No. He made a choice and he seemed happy with it. I guess he liked one of the options in Wood County’s list, as opposed to Wayne County’s list. What does Wayne County know? They’re probably a bunch of hayseeds…..
The Governor’s office said that the State Republican Party executive committee was responsible for directing the process of choosing the candidates (even though they apparently weren’t involved in the 2018 appointment). This was according to the party’s Acting Chair, Roman Stauffer – a lobbyist and former campaign manager for Governor Justice (just several months ago).
Look at what I found, however….. Mr. Stauffer was, at one time, the chair of the Mercer County Republican Executive Committee. During his time serving in that capacity, guess what happened? A vacancy opened up in his county and he was required to come up with three qualified candidates for the Governor to choose a replacement. It looks like Mr. Stauffer followed the exact same process that ended up being wrong now in 2021:
In fact, he appears to have handled the vacancy in the exact same way as Wayne County did with Derrick Evans’ seat. The only difference being: politics.
Update: the Governor’s Chief of Staff and General Counsel was the radio today lying about the conversation he had with me, and also making other false statements. Apparently he struggles wit the truth:
Here is the petition for Writ of Mandamus we filed this morning with the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, asking them to force the West Virginia Governor to follow West Virginia law in choosing between the three qualified candidates presented to him by the Wayne County Republican Executive Committee to fill the vacancy in the legislature left by the resignation of Del. Derrick Evans:
Basically, the State Republican party has usurped the powers and authority of the Wayne County Republican voters, by attempting to take away their authority to choose a list of three qualified candidates to present to the Governor to fill the empty seat in the House of Delegates following the January 9 resignation of Del. Derrick Evans.
The Governor was presented with a list of three qualified candidates on January 14. He had five days to choose from the list. Instead the new Acting Chair of the West Virginia Republican Executive Committee took over the process, and created a new list – this time removing one of the three names and inserting a new name. This disenfranchises the Republican voters of the 19th Delegate District in Wayne County. The law is clear however, and places this power solely on the Wayne County Republican committee members – all duly elected by voters in their precinct.
Why is this important? Wayne County hasn’t had a Republican delegate in 100 years. Now that they’ve got one, the Governor is seeking to replace the choices of the voters with his own guy – who is an unvetted, unknown entity, since he didn’t run in the November campaign. Even more importantly, West Virginia law is clear and unambiguous that the local party (and this applies to all parties) gets to make the decision on the list of three to present to the Governor. This was put in place for a reason. To allow it to be thrown to the wayside is to allow a transfer of power from the people at the local level to some smoke-filled back room full of politicians and politicos.
In 2018, West Virginia passed a wonderful pro-2nd Amendment piece of legislation, titled HB 4187, a.k.a. the “Parking Lot Bill,” which took effect on June 8, 2018. The bill prohibited businesses from banning firearms from vehicles in their parking lots. It also prohibited the hiring and firing of employees based on their possession of firearms.
About a year later, a national gun control group, which is really “Everytown for Gun Safety,” financed by Michael Bloomberg, using the b.s. name, “Coalition Against Domestic Violence.” Ironically, this group would forcibly disarm the very group they’re supposed to be advocating for. Victims of domestic violence would not have the option of defending themselves with firearms, from their would-be attackers, because they would have their employers enact policies (which corporations generally do) requiring that no firearms can be kept, even in their employees’ parked cars. Here’s the original lawsuit, in its entirety:
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey is the named defendant in the suit. His lawyers filed a motion to dismiss.
Last week, U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver denied the motion. I had to read it for myself, since many were instantly outraged. Judge Copenhaver is as good as it gets. He was first appointed by President Ford, and is a workaholic, even in his 90s. I had the honor of trying a jury trial in front of him a few years back. Here is his ruling:
Keep in mind, that this is a ruling in a motion to dismiss – not a ruling on the merits of the challenge. It’s an easy standard for plaintiffs to pass in most cases. So, what were the grounds for allowing the lawsuit to proceed? Even though the gun control group is advocating for the restriction of the individual rights of West Virginia citizens, they’ve disguised their claims as seeking constitutional protections for a collection of domestic violence advocacy groups who are apparently horrified of armed attackers hiding guns in parking lots.
The motion was actually only seeking dismissal on grounds of “standing” and “ripeness,” which are both technical arguments not quite reaching the constitutionality issues. The Court rightly held that groups should be able to challenge the constitutionality of state statutes in federal court, and that they should be able to do so prior to any enforcement actions – not just afterwards. So this is a bit of a nothing-burger. At some point there will need to be a ruling on the constitutional issues.
One of the claims which will need to be decided, isn that the Parking Lot Bill violates the First Amendment – that there’s a free speech component to the being able to prohibit firearms on your business or organization property, if you don’t like guns. It will be interesting to see what happens with that, because it’s not all that different fro the claim we made in the same federal court last week in our challenge of the Governor’s mask mandate. Many laughed when I argued that compliance (or noncompliance) with a mask mandate was protected free speech. So let’s see if this similar argument gets any traction.
Recently, the 2nd Amendment advocacy organization, Gun Owners of America (GOA) submitted a petition to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, on behalf of “over a quarter of a million veterans” who have had, possibly unbeknownst to them, their gun rights stolen from them:
“For years, GOA has fought against VA’s practice of submitting names of veterans who need a fiduciary to the National Instant Check System (NICS), effectively banning these veterans from owning guns,” Aidan Johnston, Director of Federal Affairs for GOA, said. “It’s a disgrace to infringe the rights of those who have taken up arms for our country abroad, only to have that right taken away when they return home.”
Basically, since the Clinton Administration, the VA has been engaging in a policy of proactively causing the loss of gun rights for military veterans who require assistance with the management of their financial affairs, and appoint a fiduciary, such as is common with temporary bouts of PTSD for returning combat veterans. The GOA has been killing it lately in their efforts at protecting the 2nd Amendment. They’re trying to fix this injustice.
The proposed rule would prohibit the VA from transmitting information about a VA beneficiary to law enforcement agencies, and specifically the National Instant Background Check System (“NICS”) run by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, solely and simply due to an appointment of a fiduciary to manage the finances of a beneficiary, without a judicial order in accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4).
Federal law prohibits the receipt or possession of a firearm or ammunition by anyone “who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution.” 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4). Federal law prohibits the receipt or possession of firearms or ammunition by anyone “who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution” in 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4). In 19976 and later in 2014,7 the BATFE expanded the definition of “adjudicated as a mental defective” to also include:
“[a] determination by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority that a person, as a result of marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease: (1) Is a danger to himself or to others; or (2) Lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs.”
The problem is, that the VA is triggering this definition via their internal fiduciary determination process, which is occurring wholly without due process or judicial involvement or review.
This low standard, based upon a bureaucratic determination, is not commensurate with the BATFE’s higher standard of a determination by an authority such as a court that a person is for example of subnormal intelligence or a danger to others. The VA’s seriously flawed interpretive guidance sweeps up for reporting to NICS a host of persons who Congress never intended to disarm. Commitments and adjudications are done by the judicial system, not by VA bureaucrats. And the terms “mental defective” and “committed” apply to persons who, as a result of a marked subnormal intelligence or capacity, are permanently unable to function in society and historically were often institutionalized.
So what’s happening is this: a combat veteran returns from deployment and temporarily suffers from mild post-traumatic stress – even temporarily – and even if they rely on a family member to assist them with their finances, or balancing their checkbook, they are coming within the broad Department of Veteran Affairs definition, which is in turn coming within the definition of federal and state criminal statutes prohibiting the possession of firearms on mental health grounds.
This has been happening because, since 1998, the Clinton Administration DOJ began reporting to the FBI, for addition in the NICS index those beneficiaries who require a fiduciary to manage their VA benefits under VA regulations. In 2016, Congress provided for some due process protections in that bureaucratic framework in the “21st Century Cares Act” requiring notice and a hearing, and an opportunity to present a defense. However, the case remains that we are unnecessarily subjecting our veterans to a loss of their gun rights with a lower standards than the rest of the American population.
In contrast to Section 922, which pertains to disarming those “adjudicated as a mental defective or who ha[ve] been committed to a mental institution, 38 C.F.R. § 3.353’s determinations of incompetency pertain to the capacity of a veteran “to contract or to manage his or her own affairs, including disbursement of funds without limitation,”10 for the specific purposes of insurance and disbursement of benefits, and are made according to “the beneficiary’s social, economic and industrial adjustment.” 11 Not only the standard, but the intention and scope of the criminal statute, used to justify reporting veterans in the fiduciary program to the NICS database, differ from those of the VA regulation so substantially as to make clear the inapplicability of the VA fiduciary process as a reasonable determination of “mentally defective” requiring reporting to the NICS database.
The GOA’s proposed change in VA rules would prevent this from happening, and would protect the 2nd Amendment rights of veterans – or at least make them equal to the rest of us. They could still be adjudicated mentally defective, as with anyone else. But there would be no systematic deprivation of rights, such as has existed since 1998.
Then, on top of this, some states have enacted, or attempted to enact, so-called “Red Flag Laws,” such as the one enacted in Virginia, which allows “authorities to convince a judge that a person would be a danger to themselves or others….” and does so in the absence of due process, but rather based on the word of some other individual. What follows, is law enforcement being sent to the individual’s home to confiscate guns. There have already been innocent people killed as a result of these laws, such as occurred in Maryland. The fact is, there are over 1.6 million disabled veterans with service-connected adjudication by the VA of “mental illness,” including one million vets with PTSD. These determinations, if and when made, should be made on a case-by-case basis, and should not be systematic, nor made by bureaucrats at the VA, or elsewhere.
Election Day! Who knows what’s going to happen tonight and the next few days. Understand your state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, if it has one. And if not, understand what the self defense laws are in your state. As of January 1, 2020, 34 states have stand-your-ground laws or have expanded castle doctrine to apply beyond the home. Eight states have expanded castle doctrine to motor vehicles or the workplace.
“There is nothing so likely to produce peace as to be well prepared to meet an enemy.”
– George Washington
“The right of self-defense never ceases. It is among the most sacred, and alike necessary to nations and to individuals.”
– James Monroe, Second annual message to Congress, November 16, 1818
“Our nation was built and civilized by men and women who used guns in self-defense and in pursuit of peace. One wonders indeed, if the rising crime rate, isn’t due as much as anything to the criminal’s instinctive knowledge that the average victim no longer has means of self-protection.”
– Ronald Reagan
The criminal does not expect his prey to fight back. May he never choose you, but, if he does, surprise him.
– Jeff Cooper
“Though violence is not lawful, when it is offered in self-defense or for the defense of the defenseless, it is an act of bravery far better than cowardly submission.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
Standard castle doctrine states that a person in his or her own home does not have a duty to retreat prior to using force, including deadly force, in self-defense.
‘STAND YOUR GROUND’ LAW
A stand-your-ground law varies by state, and generally provides that people may use deadly force when they reasonably believe it to be necessary to defend against a threat of death, serious bodily harm, and other serious crimes, differing slightly between states, without there being a duty to retreat before using such deadly force in self-defense.
It is generally required that the individual who is standing his ground be in a place where he or she is lawfully present. Stand-your-ground laws generally cannot be invoked by someone who is the initial aggressor, or who is otherwise engaged in criminal activity. The exact details vary by jurisdiction.
YE OLD DUTY TO RETREAT
The alternative to stand your ground is “duty to retreat.” In states that implement a duty to retreat, even a person who is unlawfully attacked (or who is defending someone who is unlawfully attacked) may not use deadly force if it is possible to instead avoid the danger with complete safety by retreating.
Even duty-to-retreat states generally follow the “castle doctrine,” under which people have no duty to retreat when they are attacked in their homes, or (in some states) in their vehicles or workplaces.
BREAKDOWN OF STATES
Laws in at least 25 states allow that there is no duty to retreat an attacker in any place in which one is lawfully present.
(Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.)
At least ten of those states include language stating one may “stand his or her ground.” (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.)
Pennsylvania’s law, amended in 2011, distinguishes use of deadly force outside one’s home or vehicle. It provides that in such locations one cannot use deadly force unless he has reasonable belief of imminent death or injury, and either he or she cannot retreat in safety or the attacker displays or uses a lethal weapon.
Idaho’s law, passed in 2018, expanded the definition of justifiable homicide to include not only defending one’s home against an intruder, but also defending one’s place of employment or an occupied vehicle.
Self-defense laws in at least 23 states (Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee West Virginia and Wisconsin) provide civil immunity under certain self- defense circumstances.
Statutes in at least six states (Hawaii, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota and Tennessee) assert that civil remedies are unaffected by criminal provisions of self-defense law.
*In 2018, the Ohio House and Senate voted to override the Governor’s veto of House Bill 228. The bill places the burden of disproving a self-defense claim on the prosecution.
WEST VIRGINIA, SPECIFICALLY:
West Virginia is a “stand your ground state,” and does not require a person to retreat before using force, including deadly force:
(a) A lawful occupant within a home or other place of residence is justified in using reasonable and proportionate force, including deadly force, against an intruder or attacker to prevent a forcible entry into the home or residence or to terminate the intruder’s or attacker’s unlawful entry if the occupant reasonably apprehends that the intruder or attacker may kill or inflict serious bodily harm upon the occupant or others in the home or residence or if the occupant reasonably believes that the intruder or attacker intends to commit a felony in the home or residence and the occupant reasonably believes deadly force is necessary.
(b) A lawful occupant within a home or other place of residence does not have a duty to retreat from an intruder or attacker in the circumstances described in subsection (a) of this section.
(c) A person not engaged in unlawful activity who is attacked in any place he or she has a legal right to be outside of his or her home or residence may use reasonable and proportionate force against an intruder or attacker: Provided, That such person may use deadly force against an intruder or attacker in a place that is not his or her residence without a duty to retreat if the person reasonably believes that he or she or another is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm from which he or she or another can only be saved by the use of deadly force against the intruder or attacker.
(d) The justified use of reasonable and proportionate force under this section shall constitute a full and complete defense to any civil action brought by an intruder or attacker against a person using such force.
W. Va. Code § 55-7-22(a)-(d).
Of course, there are exceptions. The absolute immunity afforded by Section 55-7-22 does not apply in the following circumstances:
– The person who would invoke Section 55-7-22 was attempting to commit, committing, or escaping from the commission of a felony;
– The person initially provoked the use of force against himself, herself, or another with the intent to use such force as an excuse to inflict bodily harm upon the assailant;
– Otherwise initially provokes the use of force against himself, herself, or another, unless the individual withdraws from the physical contact and clearly indicates to the assailant the desire to withdraw, but the assailant continues to use force.
W. Va. Code § 55-7-22(e)(1)-(3). Case law considering Section 55-7-22 is sparse. See State v. Samuel (No. 13-0273, Mem. Dec.) (Nov. 8, 2013); United States v. Matheny (No. 2:12-CR-00068, S.D. W. Va., May 8, 2012).
STILL NO BOOBY TRAPS:
Nothing in Section 55-7-22, however, permits the creation of a hazardous condition on or in real or personal property designed to prevent criminal conduct or cause injury to a person engaging in criminal conduct (e.g., spring-loaded shotguns). Nor does Section 55-7-22 authorize or justify a person to resist or obstruct a law-enforcement officer acting in the course of his or her duty. W. Va. Code § 55-7-22(g).