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Voters in Chesterfield Might Find Scott Miles to be Right for Commonwealth’s Attorney

I have been mildly following the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s race in Chesterfield.  I know one of the candidates through the fact he prints his appeals with the company I work for and Scott Miles sent me and 7 million other lawyers an email when he started his race.  Nevertheless, I like what Miles said at the forum hosted by the Chesterfield Bar Association.  I am sorry I missed it.  Here is the Chesterfield Observer’s take on it.

Miles, the Democrat (whatta mean liking a Democrat?  Well, I have liked a few…) started out with this:

Democrat Scott Miles, a local defense attorney, laid out a platform focused on criminal justice reform and said progressive change is needed in an office he thinks became “kind of insular” during Billy Davenport’s 30-year tenure as commonwealth’s attorney. Davenport retired in June and endorsed [Chief Deputy CA John] Childrey to succeed him. The winner of the Nov. 6 special election will serve out the remaining year on Davenport’s final term in office.

Republican Childrey countered with what he thought was a crushing blow:  That Davenport ran unopposed the last SIX elections!

However, I can say as an attorney and campaign activist that since only attorneys are eligible to run for Commonwealth’s Attorney and few will take on an incumbent if they hope to practice criminal law in that county or city.

It gets better:

Miles seized quickly on a central tenet of his campaign: the futility and expense of continuing to use the county jail as a “default warehouse” for people suffering from mental illness and substance abuse.

“We have about 1,100 inmates a day and roughly about a quarter of them are not safe enough to be in our community. The other three-quarters should be getting some type of community-based treatment,” he said. “We need to give up on the idea that in those cases a 3-month, 6-month or 1-year jail sentence is doing anything for public safety.”

Every libertarian or Libertarian in Chesterfield should support Miles just for that.  Childrey attempted to counter:

Childrey pointed out Chesterfield already has programs to divert nonviolent drug offenders into treatment and allow them to avoid criminal convictions, but said it’s mostly an issue of funding. He also took issue with Miles’ suggestion that prosecutors should exercise discretion and not charge low-level narcotics possession cases as felonies.

“There are some substances the General Assembly says are so dangerous, it should be a felony to possess them. It’s not for me to say whether I agree or disagree. I took an oath to follow the law,” Childrey said.

But the prosecutor is NOT the judge; he or she does have to follow the law but has discretion to prosecute or not various offenses.  The government can decide to take a policy that in the long run saves tax money without endangering public safety.  Think about opioid addicts; better to jail ’em or divert them to treatment?

Still more; no cash bail and more discretion in the juvenile courts in a Miles CA’s office:

Should he win on Nov. 6, Miles said his prosecutors will oppose cash bail because it discriminates against poor defendants. With the exception of the most violent offenders, they’ll also “exhaust every rehabilitative option” in juvenile court before charging a minor as an adult.

Excellent!  But the coup de grace is (or ought to be) here:

Noting Miles spent four years in Richmond’s commonwealth’s attorney’s office before going into private practice, Childrey suggested Chesterfield prosecutors “may buck a little bit” if Miles comes in and immediately makes sweeping changes.

“I’m not trying to be offensive to Scott, because he’s a serious guy, but the average commonwealth’s attorney in Chesterfield has 14 years of experience. He has less than a third of the experience of the average person in the office he wants to lead,” Childrey said.

***

According to Miles, prosecutors who choose to stay and work under him will have to be willing to carry out his directives.

“The ones who don’t … well, a law license is good throughout the commonwealth,” he said. “I’ve been doing this kind of work for 22 years. I know people. We have no shortage of talented trial attorneys. To the extent we have vacancies, I’m going to fill them quickly with people who are skilled and service-oriented.”

RAH for Miles!  I am sure Childrey will be a fine head prosecutor but time for a change.

I am not quite ready to endorse Miles but I would say I agree with what I am hearing.  Do voters have the courage to embrace a different style of prosecuting?  We will see.

 

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

One Response to “Voters in Chesterfield Might Find Scott Miles to be Right for Commonwealth’s Attorney”

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    1. […] I was however surprised to see him run for Commonwealth’s Attorney in Chesterfield.  But as I learned more, I liked his ideas – although he is a bit further down the road on some things […]


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    Tom White Says:

    Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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