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Inherent authority bill won’t be revived

A short session, money woes and strong opinions on the House Courts of Justice Committee have killed any chance of a legislative resolution next year of the issue of the inherent authority of judges to defer a finding of guilty.

House Bill 553, introduced  in the 2008 session of the General Assembly by House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, would have given judges that authority in most cases.

It was carried over until the 2009 session, largely because two cases, Gibson v. Commonwealth and Moreau v. Fuller, that addressed the issue were pending in the Supreme Court of Virginia. In June, the court decided that neither case got there in a posture that it could resolve the issue.

Griffith said last week that he was disappointed that the court did not make a definitive ruling, but decided not to press it this time because he believes it’s just too contentious a subject for the committee. It includes a policeman, a prosecutor and several strong law-and-order types on one side and criminal defense attorneys on the other.

Trying to resolve what he described as “a philosophical divide” when legislators will be giving most of their attention to money matters wouldn’t be fair to the committee members, he said.

By Alan Cooper

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