Virginia’s “new sheriff in town”

Virginia’s new governor, Glenn Youngkin, has received well-deserved praise from conservatives for actions he took his first day as governor. I want to recognize the early moves of Virginia’s new attorney general, Jason Miyares.

The Washington Post reports.

Virginia’s new Attorney General Jason S. Miyares has already launched a probe of a state parole board he feels failed crime victims, fired several employees, including in a unit that investigates wrongful convictions, and blasted liberal prosecutors who seek lighter sentences.

In his opening days in office, the Republican punctuated the uncompromising approach to public safety that he said will be the focus of his tenure by. . .declaring: “There’s a new sheriff in town.”

Miyares has also announced that his office will investigate the Virginia Parole Board’s release of felons. It will also investigate the Loudoun County school system’s handling of a pair of sexual assaults by a high school student.

In addition, Miyares has removed Virginia from a coalition of states seeking to defend the EPA’s plan to reduce greenhouse gases from existing power plants. “Virginia is no longer anti-coal,” Miyares tweeted.

That’s not bad for less than a week’s work, and Miyares says he’s only getting started:

The former prosecutor, who is the first Latino to hold statewide office in Virginia, said in a wide-ranging interview that those early moves are just the opening salvo in a broader plan to reorient criminal justice policy in a state that he says has gone too soft on crime and has seen a recent spike in its murder rate.

“I said I wanted to have the office discuss and focus a lot on public safety. That’s a lot of what we are going to be doing,” Miyares said. “We have hired several former commonwealth’s attorneys in several key positions.”

Miyares has also done a considerable amount of firing:

One of Miyares’s first moves — even before he officially took office — was to dismiss about 30 of the roughly 450 members of the attorney general’s staff. They included attorneys who worked on civil rights, opioids, human trafficking, and election issues. The firings also included the entire conviction integrity unit, which investigates potential wrongful convictions.

Obviously, I can’t speak to merits of particular firings. However, I have no doubt that, after years of Democratic domination, the Commonwealth’s attorneys office consisted of many left-liberals whose view of their jobs and of law enforcement are decidedly at odds with those of Miyares.

Indeed, Miyares’ predecessor Mark Herring liked to say he turned the attorney general’s office into a “progressive powerhouse,” using its powers to pursue liberal goals on hot button issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. Miyares’ house cleaning sends a strong message that this is no longer what the Office is about.

The message isn’t that laws won’t be enforced even-handedly, though. Potentially wrongful convictions will still be scrutinized. However, the unit that scrutinizes them will be reconfigured. It will be headed by a Democrat, former Arlington prosecutor Theo Stamos.

Similarly, there is no reason to believe that meritorious cases against police officers will get short shrift. Miyares says he is open to pursuing “pattern-and-practice” investigations against cops.

He affirms that he’s sensitive to abuse by police officers, to which, he says, at least one member of his Cuban immigrant family was subjected. “I’m a passionate believer in individual dignity and not abusing that — least of all by government,” Miyares insists.

Finally, for the benefit of diversity bean counters, it should be noted that Miyares is Latino, his chief of staff, D.J. Jordan, is black, and his special counsel, Stephanie Hamlett, is female. Apparently, there’s nary a white male, privileged or otherwise, in the innermost circle of the current Commonwealth Attorney’s office — much less a privileged white male who once appeared in blackface.

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