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Quick views on some of the week's news.
Saturday, March 30, 2013
The people object, Your Honor
How endearingly revealing that Judge Jonathan Apgar would cite the hilariously irreverent "My Cousin Vinny" as the courtroom movie that best captures the legal process. Apgar is the antithesis of the humorlessly staid, small-town Southern judge in constant cultural conflict with a smart-mouthed, sharp-witted New York defense attorney in town to save his young cousin from a bum murder rap.
Apgar goes out of his way to make people feel comfortable in the intimidating setting of a courtroom. He has no need to be pompous to command the respect due a presiding judge. He earns it.
Apgar officially retires from the Circuit Court bench Sunday, and his judicial temperament, kindness and respect for the law and for the people who come before him have made him a hard act to follow. "He has always done the right thing for the right reasons," an extraordinary tribute, offered by Roanoke Commonwealth's Attorney Donald Caldwell in a newspaper profile this week of his colleague.
State lawmakers will have the chance next week to name Apgar's replacement, a political process always rife with risk from misplaced priorities. Roanoke is used to the best, and will expect no less.
Time for spring cleaning in the valley
All those winter windstorms have left their mark on the Roanoke Valley. There's so much litter everywhere that it's hard to know just where to start.
The Clean Valley Council has a good plan of attack for the overwhelming task of spring cleaning the valley. So gather your family, friends and club mates and report for duty April 13 for this year's Clean Valley Day.
Last year, 1,400 volunteers on 70 teams in Roanoke, Salem, Vinton and Roanoke and Botetourt counties collected 34 tons of trash and 430 tires. There is always plenty of trash to go around, no matter how many volunteers report for a few hours duty.
Much of the refuse, between 10 and 12 tons each year, is gathered in Roanoke. Given its location, the city acts as the catch basin of the valley, so plenty of help is needed to pick up what nature and litterers have dropped.
Volunteers can pick their favorite spot to clean: a park, playground, greenway, roadside, stream bank, even their neighborhood street. Clean Valley Council will provide gloves and trash bags, and the localities will collect the bagged trash. Just let the council know you're in at cleanvalley.org.
No surprises here
Everyone knew what the final outcome would be in a legal battle over Pittsylvania County supervisors' practice of opening their meetings with a Christian prayer. Even the attorney for the supervisors, who stubbornly insisted on battling to the bitter and expensive end, told the Danville Register & Bee he was not surprised by this week's ruling that permanently barred sectarian prayers.
Spoiler alerts were sprinkled throughout multiple precedents in the U.S. Supreme Court and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. Nevertheless, supervisors rebuffed efforts at remediation and wasted the past year and a half in court.
At least some supervisors apparently have developed a taste for frivolous legal fights. Chairman Marshall Ecker told the Danville paper, "If it was up to me, I would contest it."
Let's hope his constituents let him know they aren't interested in bankrolling pointless appeals. Supervisors could have easily avoided the fracas. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Urbanski said county officials are still permitted nondenominational invocations or, better, moments of silence, that make sure everyone in attendance knows he or she is welcome.
It should not have taken the intervention of a federal judge to come up with that solution. Barbara Hudson, who regularly attends county meetings, made a similar request in September 2011.
And, Urbanski pointedly noted, government officials across the nation have seen fit to comply with the law and with their diverse constituents' preferences without the intervention of a federal judge.
Pittsylvania supervisors apparently thought they were special. Now they know better.
Weather JournalWarmth next 2 days hits icy wall