“Office Policy” vs Constitution
Griffith said his staff didn’t call the police on the protestors. They simply, in accordance with a new policy enacted after the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., let the police know ahead of time that a crowd was anticipated. Bristol Herald Courier
A tea party supporter from Patrick County stopped by Morgan Griffith’s office on Wednesday, March 16th on his way to Blacksburg. His wife had told him about the protest. When the gentleman decided to talk to some of the nice office ladies about some of the issues and asked Griffith’s office manager why the police were there, he was told that the DC office instructed them to “phone the police and have them insist on a permit or disband.”
So Griffith’s staff didn’t call the police on the protestors—only they did. Because of this ‘new policy’. So, here’s the question: Does ”Office Policy” trump the US and Virginia Constitution? Ninth District Liberty Coalition member Phil Spence, after speaking at length with Griffith’s Chief of Staff, Kelly Lungren, isn’t satisfied with the Congressman’s response.
So he asks the Governor. Here is his letter:
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The Honorable Bob McDonnell
GovernorP.O. Box 1475
Richmond, Virginia 23218
On Wednesday, March 16, 2011, the Ninth District Liberty Coalition, in conjunction with members from The New River Valley TEA Party, arrived in front of U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith’s office to peaceably protest his recent house votes.
Upon arrival we were met by the Christiansburg Chief of Police who informed us that Representative Griffith’s office had notified his office of our planned visit. Police Chief Sisson stated that we must have a permit to assemble or we would be cited with disorderly conduct. We asked Chief Sisson if we refused a permit and refused to disperse after a citation, would he arrest us, Representative Griffith’s constituents? His response was that he hoped it would not come to that.
At this point, it must be stated that Chief Sisson treated us respectfully and behaved with professionalism. We believe Chief Sisson was put into a position that was unfair to him, that of being called to the scene by Representative Griffith’s office.
Sir, this behavior by our “representative” is seen by us to be a constitutionally questionable action which is unacceptable to us, the citizens of Virginia. The response coming from Representative Griffith’s office was that this is now “office policy” and that the Sergeant-At-Arms had “privately” advised House members to follow this policy. This too is wholly unacceptable to us in that rules which concern us are being made in “private”—and that we are not able to see or access these rules, or this process. Where is the constitutional justification for this process?
Speaking for my own conscience, I did not on this day seek a permit, and at no point in the future shall I ever ask permission from my “representative” or any other form or face of government, for any behavior, speech or action, that I as a sovereign citizen of this commonwealth undertake.
Article 1, Section 2, Constitution of Virginia
That the freedom of speech and the press are among the great bulwarks of liberty and can never be restrained
except by despotic governments, that any citizen may freely speak, write and publish his sentiments on all
subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right; that the General Assembly shall not pass any law
abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, nor the right of the people peaceably to assemble and
petition the government for the redress of grievances.
As the Governor of this Commonwealth and past Attorney General, how, in the light of this passage, can any county or corporate subdivision whatsoever have or enforce a statute that could in any way supersede my birthright of freedom of assembly?
Today we know not the names of or how many patriot martyrs paid in blood for this guarantee of our liberty preexisting:
Article 1, Section 1, Constitution of Virginia
That all men are by nature equally independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into
a state of society, they cannot by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely the enjoyment of life and
liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.
Where is the compact that we the people have acceded to, whereby the corporate entity of Christiansburg, may for one moment by any corporate by-law or statute presume upon the liberties of the people?
Sir, your endorsement of U.S. Representative Griffith indirectly enjoins you in this matter.
Your standing as first civil magistrate on the Commonwealth of Virginia with a constitutional trustee obligation to the people of Virginia directly enjoins your response.
At this time we place the issue forward and stand in necessity of your answer and direction
We anticipate your speedy reply of assurance that you stand with us as we proceed in this situation. As always, our hand of cooperation is extended to help propel Virginia forward.
With Highest Regards,
Phillip H. Spence
CC: Attorney General, The Honorable Ken Cuccinelli
The Honorable Mr. George Allen
Here is Attorney General Cuccinelli’s reply:
Dear Mr. Spence:
Thank you for contacting the Office of Attorney General Kenneth T.
This office however is prohibited by code from providing legal
opinions or advice to private citizens. Section 2.2-505 of the Code
of Virginia is the statutory provision that authorizes the Attorney
General to render official advisory opinions. The statute provides
A. The Attorney General shall give his advice and render official
advisory opinions in writing only when requested in writing so to do
by one of the following: the Governor; a member of the General
Assembly; a judge of a court of record or a judge of a court not of
record; the State Corporation Commission; an attorney for the
Commonwealth; a county, city or town attorney in those localities in
which such office has been created; a clerk of a court of record; a
city or county sheriff; a city or county treasurer or similar officer;
a commissioner of the revenue or similar officer; a chairman or
secretary of an electoral board; or the head of a state department,
division, bureau, institution or board.
The General Assembly has not authorized the Attorney General to render
an official opinion except as expressly provided. I regret that this
Office is unable to respond to your request.
Audrey D. Jackson
Director, Legislative and Government Affairs
Office of the Attorney General
900 East Main Street