Thursday, November 15, 2007

On Southwest Virginia courthouses

VLW Blog links here to this story in the Bristol paper that says Smyth County has agreed to spend $24 million to upgrade the courthouse at Marion.

I've been in the courthouse up there many times. I'm not sure that it is any worse or less secure than the courthouses in Lee County and Scott County, or Dickenson County and Buchanan County for that matter, but maybe it is. I don't know the set-up of the juvenile courts in those places, where the security risks are very real. The Tazewell County courthouse was redone and seems very nice. The Washington County courthouse is confusing but it has far better security than the others. The Wise County courthouse is also confusing but at least the main courtroom is pretty far from the street.

Michael Large has cool virtual tours of some of these buildings on his website.

Probably the most interesting looking was the federal courthouse they tore down in Abingdon.

Courthouse security is better everywhere now than it was. Years ago, while I was still in law school, I went to Russell County for the first time to see part of a murder trial, where the defendant was represented by John Lowe. During one of the breaks, I stood out on the front porch for a while looking out over the town when I realized the fellow standing next to me, having a cigarette and sharing the view, was the defendant.

The only "modern" building for miles around is here in Bristol. (The buildings in Christiansburg and Bristol and maybe Jonesville are, as I recalls, the only Southwest Virginia courthouses that didn't qualify for the book, Virginia's Historic Courthouses.) The story is often told that while the design of the Bristol complex was lauded as escape-proof, with underground connections between the jail and the court, supposedly the defendant at one of the early trials in the new building ran out of the courtroom and out the front door.

One retired local lawyer told a similar tale recently, or maybe it was the very same case, where his court-appointed client fled the premises after the jury had retired, prompting then-Judge Davis to comment that the defendant was apparently dissatisfied with his lawyer's summation.

On Steven Rose

The Johnson City paper has this obituary, which reads in part:

"Steven C. Rose was born in Kingsport, Tennessee, on January 18, 1952. Husband, father, son and lawyer, he passed away unexpectedly of a sudden heart attack at his home Tuesday morning, November 13, 2007. He was 55-years old.

Steve was the son of Cecil and Virginia Rose, and he was a life long resident of Kingsport. He graduated from Dobyns-Bennett High School in 1970, where he played on the varsity football team under coach Tom Pugh.

He attended the University of Tennessee at Knoxville where he graduated with honors with a degree in Business Administration. He attended the University of Tennessee Law School and graduated in 1977 and while attending was member of the school’s esteemed “Tennessee Law Review.”

He was admitted to the Tennessee Bar in 1977 and began practicing law as an associate at the law firm of Hunter, Smith & Davis. In 1983, he left Hunter, Smith & Davis and joined Mason Dixon Tank Lines, Inc. as Executive Vice-President. In 1984, he returned to the practice of law with M. Lacy West, deceased, under the firm name West & Rose. He practiced law with Lacy for 22 years and was joined in the firm by Lacy’s wife, Julia West, and recently by his son, Curt Rose. He loved the practice of law and was one of the fortunate few who got to make a living doing what he loved.

He served on numerous Boards of Directors including past President of Mountain Region Speech and Hearing, past President of Friends of Allandale and past President of Kingsport Swim Association. He also served as past President of the Kingsport Jaycees, past President of Rotary of Kingsport and past President of the Kingsport Bar Association. He recently had been appointed to and served proudly on the Tennessee State Judiciary Selection Committee.

Steve’s pride and joy was his family; he lived every day to the fullest and enriched the lives of those he had the pleasure to meet. He will be sorely missed by his family, friends and colleagues."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Why isn't the Ninth District part of the State of West Virginia?

This page purports to have the answer.

It says in part:

"Had the official split occurred 90 years earlier, the boundary may have been the crest of the Blue Ridge. Had the Civil War occurred in 1850, then West Virginia may have included what is now the Ninth Congressional District. Once the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad was built, connecting Southwest Virginia with Tidewater ports, subsistence agriculture was replaced with a cash economy based on tobacco. As part of the cultural change, slavery became more common in the region - and of course the counties went into debt to help finance the railroad. The boundary commission that recommended what counties should be included in the new state purposefully excluded those counties with a heavy debt load."

On the Civil War origins of the Virginia church property statute

This interesting article from the Washington Times about the pending litigation in Northern Virginia over the division of church property on account of splits within the Episcopal Church traces the origins of the statute at issue, Va. Code 57-9, to the day when congregations split over the issue of secession, prior to the Civil War.

The article begins:

"The largest property dispute in the history of the Episcopal Church, brought on by divisions over a homosexual bishop, is likely to turn on a Civil War-era Virginia law passed to govern churches splitting during disputes over slavery and secession," and notes that "many of the documents filed by the breakaway churches talk of 1860s splits among Baptists and Presbyterians over slavery and secession, including an 1867 article in the New York Times."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Worth reading

Over the weekend, I read Dominion of Memories: Jefferson, Madison, and the Decline of Virginia, an excellent book. The subject matter is the economic and political decline of Virginia from 1820 to 1860. Previously, I linked to a review of this book.

One of the many themes is that you can find a quote from Jefferson (or Madison) to support about any proposition, at least as regards the balance between state and federal power - for better and for worse.

Another theme is that at least to some degree, Virginia's elite had choices, and what they chose was to cling to their own wealth and power at the expense of democracy and progress, for reasons both rational and irrational, with results that were both predicted and predictable.

I wonder how this book compares with, for example, The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy.

The author Susan Dunn is cited in this article, in the Washington Post.