Town Halls Furthering Dialogue
By Brian Wesley
We promised a forum for lawyers and the public to have a constructive dialogue in our June 19, 2020 statement. The Diversity Conference formed a Town Hall Committee to create programs and opportunities for lawyers to discuss the effects of our changing understanding of our reality.
Named Time to Talk Town Halls, this series of collaborative virtual town halls was sponsored by the Young Lawyers Conference and the Diversity Conference of the Virginia State Bar. These town halls featured presentations by various subject-matter panelists followed by a Question & Answer forum for participant engagement.
Long standing but under the radar issues have come to the light and the events of the last six weeks remind us as lawyers that access to justice for all Virginians and the rule of law are of paramount importance. Given the need to address these issues, the Conferences have teamed up to discuss the legal implications surrounding a number of these interrelated topics.
In our first town hall on July 23, Perceptions and Realities of Policing, the panel explored topics including but not limited to: Section 1983 civil rights actions; the doctrine on qualified immunity and instances of excessive use of force; the removal of statues and monuments; and, 1st Amendment protection of protesters afforded under the U.S. Constitution.
Our second town hall on August 20, Free Speech, Statues, and Ongoing Protests, included analysis of free speech and property law concepts that have arisen with the removal of monuments in Richmond and Norfolk. The panel discussed the idea of government speech and whether putting up or removing a statue constitutes compelling speech, asking if the government compels or prevents free speech with action or inaction? The panel went over the history of how the monuments in Richmond and Norfolk arose and the recent history of how they have come down. The panel also covered the property issues and how free speech and real property law intersect.
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Brian Wesley, Esq. is an attorney with the Richmond law firm Thornton and Wesley and current member of the Board of Governors with the Diversity Conference. He is a past President of the Young Lawyers Conference.
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