In the News

Local News: Shelburne Middle School closing due to power outage, Updated Wednesday, 9:14 a.m.
Capitol Hill: Webb, Warner announce recommendation for Fourth Circuit
State News: Court overturns law prohibiting dissemination of Social Security numbers
Sports: Virginia Tech soccer coach steps down 

Local News: Shelburne Middle School closing due to power outage

Shelburne Middle School in Staunton is closing Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m. due to a power outage, a school-system official has confirmed to the Augusta Free Press this morning.


Capitol Hill: Webb, Warner announce recommendation for Fourth Circuit

U.S. Sens. Jim Webb and Mark R. Warner today recommended that President Obama nominate Virginia Supreme Court Justice Barbara M. Keenan to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. If nominated by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Keenan would be the first female judge from Virginia to serve on the federal appeals court.

Justice Keenan, 59, has served as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia since 1991. Prior to that, Keenan served as a judge on the General District and Circuit Courts of Fairfax County and the Virginia Court of Appeals. She was the first woman appointed to the bench in Virginia, and one of the initial ten appointees to the Virginia Court of Appeals following its creation in 1985. Earlier in her career, she worked as an assistant prosecutor in Fairfax and briefly worked as an attorney in private practice.

Sens. Webb and Warner worked together to conduct an open, extensive search to identify highly qualified Virginians for the vacancy. The senators solicited recommendations from the leading Virginia bar associations and conducted personal interviews with several potential candidates.

“Sen. Warner and I jointly recommended Justice Barbara Keenan to serve on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals based on her exceptional qualifications and comprehensive legal experience in the Commonwealth,” said Sen. Webb. “Justice Keenan has received the highest ratings from leading bar associations, and I know that, if confirmed, she will continue her distinguished record of service in this new capacity.”

“Justice Keenan has served with distinction at every level of state court in Virginia,” Sen. Warner said. “She is extremely qualified, and I strongly support her appointment to the federal appellate bench.”

The Fourth U.S. Circuit serves the states of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina. Since 1990, federal law has authorized 15 judgeships for the Fourth Circuit, and jurists from Virginia have traditionally held four of these seats.

Keenan is a 1971 graduate of Cornell University, a 1974 graduate of The George Washington University Law School, and she earned a Master of Laws degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1992. She and her husband reside in Alexandria.


State News: Court overturns law prohibiting dissemination of Social Security numbers

A federal court in Richmond has ruled that privacy advocate B.J. Ostergren may post on her website public records that contain the Social Security Numbers of Virginia legislators, Virginia Executive Officers and Clerks of Court, despite a 2008 state law that prohibits dissemination of such information.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Payne found that the law, commonly referred to as the “anti-B.J. law,” violated Ostergren’s First Amendment rights. Other courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have held that the government cannot make information available to the public, but then restrict what the public can do with it.

Ostergren runs the website, which advocates against making personal information available on the Internet. The website includes public records obtained by Ostergren from government websites that include the Social Security Numbers of public officials. By posting these documents, Ostergren hopes to illustrate how easy it is to obtain private information available from government websites and to prod elected officials to take action to prevent such information from becoming available to identity thieves.

Under Virginia law, all land records are available on the Internet. These records include deeds and mortgage information, as well as legal judgments, such as divorce decrees, that may contain Social Security Numbers and other personal information.

“Both the ACLU and Ms. Ostergren support laws that prevent the government from allowing Social Security Numbers to appear on publicly accessible websites,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis, “but the government can’t make these records available to the public then restrict what the public does with them. That violates free speech.”

“Instead of trying to kill the messenger, the Virginia General Assembly simply needs to make sure that Social Security Numbers and other private information are removed from our publicly available records,” said ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca K. Glenberg.

The lawsuit, filed on June 11, 2008, points out that shutting down Ostergren’s website will do nothing to protect Social Security Numbers, since all of the documents on her site are also available on government websites. In the 1989 case The Florida Star v. B.J.F., the Supreme Court wrote that “where the government has made certain information publicly available, it is highly anomalous to sanction persons other than the source of its release.”


Sports: Virginia Tech soccer coach steps down

Virginia Tech head men’s soccer coach Oliver Weiss announced Tuesday that he has resigned from his position as Virginia Tech men’s soccer coach effective June 2, 2009.

“I have enjoyed my tenure here,” Weiss said. “I have had the pleasure of working with some wonderful young men over the last eight years, and the program has accomplished great things. I want to thank my players, fellow coaches, Virginia Tech, the fans, alumni and the families of the players for all of their support. While I move on to other opportunities, I am proud of what we have accomplished, and I wish the team the best of luck in the fall season.”

“We wish Oliver all the best as he moves on to pursue new opportunities,” said Jim Weaver, Tech’s director of athletics.

Weiss’s teams were 73-52-17 in his seven seasons in Blacksburg. The Hokies stumbled to a 5-13-1 record in 2008 after making it to the College Cup Final Four in 2007.

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