The Virginia General Assembly could use a few good lawyers.
That seemed to be the message Tuesday as Roanoke state legislators talked about the 2013 General Assembly session with members of the Roanoke Bar Association.
“We have reached a tipping point,” warned Del. Greg Habeeb. There are now non-lawyers on the two courts committees at the State Capitol and soon, he said, the Assembly could have majorities of non-lawyers on some courts subcommittees.
Fellow Del. Chris Head, a business owner and non-lawyer, concurred that there is danger in having too few lawyers in the legislature. He described the legal “wordsmithing” required to answer tough questions about his alcohol identification bill before the House Courts Committee.
Head’s bill was designed to make it a crime to sell alcohol to an underage customer without requiring the showing of “bona fide evidence of legal age.” The committee chair raised the concern that store clerks could be convicted if they were taken in by realistic – but fake – I.D. cards.
Hoping to avoid harsh results, Head worked with sympathetic lawyers in efforts to fix the language of the bill. “I understand why we need to have lawyers,” he said.
The Virginia General Assembly currently is made up of about 29 percent practicing lawyers, according to a recent check by The Virginian-Pilot.