No Judge who is corrupt, who condones corruption in others, can possibly remains on the Bench.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Open-government conference to focus on Va. judiciary

Open-government conference to focus on Va. judiciary
Richmond Times Dispatch

By Michael Martz
Published: September 7, 2009

Virginia's judiciary will be the top topic of an annual conference this fall on opening the working of government to public view.
The judicial selection process, controlled by the General Assembly, and a hot-button proposal to make jurors anonymous in criminal cases will be debated by panelists at Access 2009, a conference convened by the Virginia Coalition for Open Government.
The judicial topics will occupy two of the four panels on the second day of the conference, scheduled for Oct. 15 and 16 at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel in Staunton. The other two panel discussions will examine whether President Barack Obama has lived up to his promises of more transparent government and the workings of Virginia's Freedom of Information Act.

"The focus is access," said Megan Rhyne, executive director of the organization, whose members include the news media, librarians and genealogists, as well as advocates for greater openness in government at all levels.

The executive and legislative branches of government are often the source of concerns about lack of public access to their government, but this year the judicial branch is drawing attention because of the way Virginia selects judges and the potential for juror names being kept anonymous in all criminal cases.
A group of citizens, known as the "Pitchfork Rebellion," have called this year for a public examination of judicial selection. Virginia is one of two states in which the legislature elects judges, but direct election isn't the primary issue under debate.

The group has expressed more concern about the lack of openness in the way judicial candidates are evaluated and chosen, and it wants a public forum on whether to change the selection process and how.

At the same time, the Virginia Supreme Court has raised concerns, especially in the news media, with a proposal to seal the names of jurors in all criminal cases. The proposal, made by the Advisory Committee on Rules of the Court, would go much further than a law adopted by the General Assembly last year to allow judges to limit disclosure of information about jurors in cases in which "good cause" has been established.

Another panel will discuss the Obama administration's record on transparency in matters ranging from spending under the stimulus bill to withholding of logs of visitors to the White House on major matters of public policy, such as health-care reform.
The final panel will discuss Virginia's Freedom of Information Act, which is a primary tool that the public uses to get information that government may not want them to have.
The FOIA also is the subject of a series of one-day seminars planned this fall by the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council. Six one-day seminars are planned: next Monday in Richmond; Sept. 28 in Staunton; Sept. 29 in Abingdon; Oct. 6 in Suffolk; Oct. 27 in Manassas; and Nov. 2 in Richmond.