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A City Attorney’s Intellectual Seppuku

By Greg L | 17 February 2010 | 13th HOD District, Virginia Politics, Manassas City | 22 Comments

Manassas City Deputy Attorney Martin Crim demonstrates his utter lack of competence in a letter to the editor published in the Manassas News & Messenger today, making many folks wonder whether the City of Manassas deliberately hires fools, or only does so inadvertently.  In a rant attacking the legal prowess of Delegate Bob Marshall and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli that any reasonably well informed High School student could tear apart, Crim demonstrates an urgent need for the City of Manassas to review their personnel roster in order to ensure delivery of quality services to the residents of Manassas.

Let’s start out with Crim’s stark raving lunacy:

Your story, “With legislation, Marshall continues health care fight,” shows us a road that Virginia has been down before.  With “massive resistance” to the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, Virginia hoped to “interpose” itself between the federal government and the people to prevent racial integration of the public schools.

Del. Bob Marshall hopes to do the same thing with his futile, theatric bills to ban mandated health care. His efforts will fail for the same reason that massive resistance did—once the federal government requires something, the states are helpless to stop it.  He and Attorney General Cuccinelli know this, or should know it, but they are engaged in inflammatory and deceptive tactics for their own political gain.



The implementation of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and the Brown decision Crim cites here followed the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment specifically authorized Congress to enact laws to that effect.  “Massive resistance” had no basis in law since the Tenth Amendment allows the federal government to exercise authority in the enumerated powers of the Constitution and its Amendments.  Quite simply, if the power is enumerated in the Constitution, the federal government can do it.  If the Constitution does not enumerate that power, the federal government cannot.  “Massive resistance” was contrary to a specific enumerated power established in the 14th Amendment.  For a member of the Virginia Bar to demonstrate such fundamental misunderstandings about Constitutional Law absolutely brings into question their fitness as an attorney.

In the case of HB 10, the situation is entirely and quite obviously different.  Congress simply cannot demand citizens enter into contracts with private companies.  There’s no enumerated power in the constitution that authorizes such action, and the notion of forcing people to enter into contracts under duress is an anathema to hundreds of years of Common Law practice.  That doesn’t matter whether the government is demanding you buy a car, identity theft protection, or health insurance.  Any contract to purchase a good or service that you’re forced into executing under threat of jail time or fines is an invalid contract and the federal government does not have the power to redefine hundreds of years worth of legal precedent like this.  You’d think an attorney would understand such a simple issue.

According to Crim, if Congress passes a law, any law, “states are helpless to stop it.”  If Congress requires you obtain a license to publicly express political thought as a means to prevent civil disorder, states are “helpless.”  If Congress says that trial by jury is too expensive and ceases appropriating money to establish federal juries as a cost-savings measure, states are “helpless.”  The federal government, now absolved of any requirement to adhere to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, can do whatever it wants and states cannot take any action to protect the interests of their citizens.  The Bill of Rights is now a cute historical artifact devoid of any meaning or power, the rule of law has been supplanted by mob rule, and we are now The United State rather than The United States.  That’s got to really warm the cockles of the collectivists that unfortunately embed themselves within government in such alarming numbers.

Mind you, this utterly ridiculous drivel is not only coming from a member of the Virginia Bar, but one who is on the payroll of the City of Manassas.

So Crim, legal giant as he has proven himself to be thus far, decides publicly throw rocks at two Goliaths of Constitutional Law in Virginia, Delegate Bob Marshall and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.  At least when David tried this with only one Goliath, he had the ultimate hole card at his disposal.  Crim instead is armed with a legal argument that even the ACLU would probably throw in the garbage, and now a City Attorney in one of Virginia’s localities is getting into a fight regarding the legality of a piece of legislation while it is being debated in the Virginia legislature.  Just try to think back to when you had an attorney working for a Virginia locality doing something like this on their own.

To put this behavior in perspective, just imagine that you’re in some sort of civil litigation and your attorney decides to start publicly attacking the judge who will hear your case on an unrelated matter.  That’s not terribly unlike what is happening here.  Martin Crim has a professional obligation to represent the interests of the City of Manassas, and publicly attacking the Attorney General’s legal competence and a member of the General Assembly can potentially harm the interests of the City.  Attorneys aren’t supposed to pull this kind of stunt and potentially damage the interests of their clients.  Had the City Council directed Crim to do this, that would be a different matter but the City Council isn’t prone to acting like utter idiots like this.  For Crim to do this, something not a few members of the City Council are infuriated by, is a breach of professional conduct that not only undermines his fallacious argument, but demands official rebuke by the City.

I’m not one to often say that a municipal employee cannot express political opinions in public.  Quite the opposite, most of the time.  In this case, in his professional capacity as an attorney Martin Crim has called into serious question his competence and qualifications for the job he holds.  Crim is ridiculously incompetent and suffers from shockingly poor judgment.  Perhaps the City can find a reasonably well informed High School graduate to replace him who won’t publicly demonstrate their legal incompetence with utterly dumbass and counterproductive rantings.

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  1. local gop said on 17 Feb 2010 at 3:39 pm:
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    This was a pretty useless letter. Officials in government should be careful about writing politically charged op-eds.
    But, I dont think this grounds for firing at all. It wasnt a well written article, but none the less it’s an opinion. I imagine that the city could get in a whole lot of trouble for firing a guy over a non-work related opinion letter.

  2. I'm Mad as He** and I'm Not Going to Take This Anymore said on 17 Feb 2010 at 3:43 pm:
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    Corey hired Melissa Peacor with his resounding endorsement. He deserves a pinhead award for that bone-headed move at least as much as Manassas does for hiring this guy.

  3. Ayn Rand IS Right! said on 17 Feb 2010 at 4:28 pm:
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    Martin Crim: Trial Lawyer, BRUU Member, Jeanette Rishell supporter, Obama devotee. To quote Joe Biden…it’s not your qualifications we question, it’s your judgment. Crim is a liberal kook, who handles the City’s business because no one wants to take the time to re-bid the contract.

  4. Ed W. said on 17 Feb 2010 at 5:07 pm:
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    Did not make the connection - thanks Greg - I am calling the few council members I trust on this one!

  5. Anonymous said on 17 Feb 2010 at 5:31 pm:
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    The City of Manassas (ie City Council) has refused to put a bid out for the City Attorney contract for years. I think its an absolute disgrace.

    Bendall and Crim must have some dirty little secrets on Council and/or some of its members.

    I would love to hear from a member of the City Council on why they never put out a bid for City Attorney job. If Bendall and company put in the best bid, then so be it - they win the job.

    If not, then we probably get a more capable law firm at a better price.

  6. Patty said on 17 Feb 2010 at 5:53 pm:
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    Martin Crim, a BRUU member. That speaks volumes. UUs have a liberal agenda that they want to push - homosexual marriage and abortion on demand. They believe the Consitution is a fluid document that needs to change with every whim that comes along. If the City Council wanted to impose the same health standards on the abortion clinic as the hospitals, Martin Crim will probably try to undermine the Council.

    Now it makes sense why he is attacking Bob Marshall.

    Mr. Crim, it also appears you committed a logical fallacy.

  7. Kevin C said on 17 Feb 2010 at 8:28 pm:
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    Let’s face it, any lawyer WORTH his SALT goes to work in the private sector !!!

    Crim probably SLEPT (or PARTIED) his way through law school !!!

    The “ones” who did wind up working in government because no one else will HIRE them.

    It’s what happens when you graduate at the BOTTOM of the class.

    One of the LOW HANGING fruit.

    THE most INCOMPETENT lawyer I’ve ever seen works for PWC, Rob Skoff!

    It would be interesting to see where HE and Crim “placed” in their graduating classes.

    Again, BOTTOM of the class.

    In any event, all the DUDS find work in whatever level of government will hire them.

    THERE would be a good place to start BALANCING the BUDGET !!!

    Cut out the DEAD WEIGHT !!!!!

  8. citizenofmanassas said on 17 Feb 2010 at 11:08 pm:
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    Typical brain dead liberal, pissed off that his fellow Anti-American libs are going to be out of power in a few months. So, the best he can do is play the race card. He and his “church” were run over by the gay marriage bill. He and his party got spanked in November. He and his party just got spanked in MA.

    So, what does he want to do? Pick a fight with a couple of local elected officials. Yup, that’s pretty smart.

  9. patryot said on 18 Feb 2010 at 5:49 pm:
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    I can see the posters here must be card-carrying members of the teabag party. Must have been a great day for you when your guy flew his plane into the IRS in Austin. Partying tonight? I think a celebration is in order.

    To think that Little Patty above is living our community is frightening.

  10. Greg L said on 18 Feb 2010 at 6:31 pm:
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    So typical of the left-wing lunatic fringe. That plane was flown by a leftist radical nutbag who wrote a lengthy suicide note railing against the Catholic Church and George Bush. Sounds to be about the same mental state as “patryot” who has done nothing here but personally attack others for imagined slights and participation in imagined conspiratorial plots.

    Liberalism is indeed proven, once again, a mental disorder.

  11. Groveton said on 18 Feb 2010 at 8:25 pm:
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    I think Bob Marshall is probably right from a purely legal point of view. However, as a practical matter, the federal government stopped adhering to the law (as put forth in the US Constitution) about 100 years ago. The abuses of power through the willful misinterpretation of the Commerce Clause were but the first shots to be fired. The US Supreme Court’s discovery of an invisible “right to privacy” in Roe v. Wade was a low-light of federal over-reach.

    However, I will extend Mr. Crim the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he was writing in practical terms rather than legal terms. When was the last major initiative put forth by the federal government beaten down by the states? It seems to me that a series of Presidents and Congress have stacked the US Supreme Court with advocates of both judicial and federal over-reach. Once the US Supreme Court is stacked there is little that states can do to recover their constitutional rights. Eventually, the matter comes before the US Supreme Court which issues rulings based on imaginary pieces of the US Constitution. I am afraid that the same thing will happen with Mr. Marshall’s effort.

    This is one reason why I believe a new constitution needs to be considered. Virginia has revised its state constitution 8 times. Yet the United States has never overhauled the US Constitution. The state legislatures could call for a constitutional convention if 2/3 of the state legislatures want one - whether Congress or Barack Obama like it or not. One proposal I’d put forth for consideration in the new constitution would be a requirement that the judiciary take the new constitution literally. Congress can only do what it literally says it can do. Anything else requires an amendment to the constitution. Until this happens I believe people like Mr. Crim will be proven legally wrong but practically correct.

  12. Old Manassas said on 18 Feb 2010 at 8:26 pm:
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    Crim is in private practice and a partner in the firm of Smith and Davenport. They do have many clients including the City of Manassas

  13. citizenofmanassas said on 18 Feb 2010 at 9:27 pm:
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    I see you are another brain dead liberal who is pissed that your fellow Anti-American libs are going to get the boot in November. Ha ha ha.

  14. Greg L said on 18 Feb 2010 at 9:32 pm:
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    Ultimately it is very likely a court case could result from this legislation, and setting the stage for that case is probably a major reason why this is being pursued. Here we have a piece of legislation that strongly relies on common law precedent and the 10th Amendment, and it would be very difficult for SCOTUS to strike down this law without doing irreparable harm to the 10th and common law as it applies to contracts. It’s like setting up an ambush, but doing so in plain sight of those who would walk into it.

    My guess is that activist liberals would be very wary of walking into this. Arguing that the federal government can coerce citizens into contracts would be really difficult, and no degree of “compelling state interest” would suffice to bolster that weak argument. They’d look foolish, and possibly set up a court decision that not only stopped this instance of federal overreach, but many others as well. The impact of a broad scoped SCOTUS decision here could even go so far as to eliminate several federal agencies like Education and Energy after tearing away their authority.

    Recall that when the transportation compromise a few years back was challenged by Bob Marshall and few believed he could ever prevail. Few grasped the power of the arguments he offered and the implications of those arguments. Not long after the Virginia Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Bob Marshall’s favor and rocked the conventional wisdom. This chapter in the Bob Marshall saga seems curiously similar in many ways, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bob once again prevail, resulting in a smashing defeat of liberalism that few could have envisioned.

    “Practicality”, which was an argument in favor of unconstitutional taxing authorities in the transportation case, fell quickly in the court. That argument doesn’t carry any legal weight whatsoever, and for a number of good reasons. Although some thought the court would make a “practical” decision, instead it made a legal one (as it is supposed to do). Bob argues the law, and in the courts the law wins.

    Then there was the Marriage Amendment, that many thought couldn’t pass, and even if it did would never withstand judicial review. It did, and it did. Underestimating the prowess of Bob Marshall in the realm of drafting legislation and understanding law is demonstrably a foolish thing to do.

    Crim is severely underarmed in an intellectual battle with Bob Marshall, and Ken Cuccinelli (himself a veteran of a number of surprising upset legal victories in his own right) makes the deck even further stacked. He ought to display better judgment than to play the underdog in something like a Urkel v. Muhammed Ali prizefight.

  15. Groveton said on 19 Feb 2010 at 5:44 am:
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    GregL - I respect your opinion and I hope you are right. My only counter is that the examples you cite were from the Virginia Supreme Court, not the US Supreme Court. I believe that the Virginia Supreme Court is much more willing to interpret, rather than enact, the law.

    If you have time, it would be very interesting to hear how a US Supreme Court decision upholding a law passed by the US Congress to compel citizens into private contracts would eliminate Energy and Education. That, in itself, might be a good reason to hope for an activist court in this matter! Most people already have health care contracts with private companies. So, the downside of an activist decision would be forcing those who don’t have these contracts to get them. The upside would be the elimination of two departments in the federal government. I am not sure which outcome is better.

    Finally, have you considered the possibility of a double ambush? Congress passes a law without a public option that forces people into contracts with private insurers. They know it is subject to constitutional challenge but the “no public option” gives them air cover with constituents who don’t like big government. Bob Marshall and others challenge the law in court. The courts reject the law. Congress declares that the courts have erred but that’s the way the system works. They submit a new bill with a public option so that nobody is forced into a contract with a private company. When constituents say they are upset by the growth of government, liberal Congressmen say, “We tried to keep it private but people like that guy Bob Marshall down in Virginia blocked that idea.”.

    Either way Crim does look pretty foolish.

  16. Anonymous said on 19 Feb 2010 at 10:44 am:
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    patryot said on 18 Feb 2010 at 5:49 pm: Flag comment

    I can see the posters here must be card-carrying members of the teabag party.

    Cream and sugar!

  17. Groveton said on 19 Feb 2010 at 4:30 pm:
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    Sorry partyot - My voting and campaign contribution breakdown is about 65% Republican, 35% Democratic. I don’t carry a card for anybody.

  18. Anonymous said on 19 Feb 2010 at 11:13 pm:
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    Greg, I don’t think Crim should have sent the letter either, but I have to point out some factual errors in your criticism.

    Remember, it was the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, not the amendments you cite, that were critical to constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Many a high school student struggles to remember this for their U.S. History exams. It’s this same Commerce Clause that is rightly or wrongly being used as legal justification for what’s being proposed for health care.

    You’re also not right about the contract/fine issue. Government at all levels does this all the time. In some states, for example, if you don’t buy auto insurance you have to pay a fee. You can call this a fee, fine, tax, whatever you want. The legal rationale is that the government entity has the right to charge you for something that will cost it or society if you do not insure against the loss. The Commerce Clause enables Congress to do that for anything involved in interstate commerce. That’s the legal argument anyway.

    Last, while Marshall did a great service to the Commonwealth in arguing against the constitutionality of the Assembly’s tax-scheme for transportation, remember that there were a lot of people who felt it was unconstitutional based on the plain-language of the Virginia Constitution. The real mystery was that the state Attorney General, and now our Governor, Bob McDonnell, did not deem it unconstitional (even though the Virginia Supreme Court was unanimous in deeming it unconstitutional). What’s that say about his legal abilities?

  19. Greg L said on 20 Feb 2010 at 12:43 am:
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    I was just waiting for someone to offer up the auto insurance example. I’d begun to hope that this canard has been beaten down enough times that no one was going to bother with it, but I guess if you wait long enough…

    Auto insurance is required in order to drive on public roads. Granted there aren’t a whole lot of people who buy cars who don’t intend to drive on a public road, but if you’re one of them you’ve no requirement to buy auto insurance. The mandate isn’t that you have to buy it (you don’t have to own a car, for example) but you have to have it in order to legally access public roads with an automobile.

    With Obamacare, everyone has to have health insurance, no matter what. There’s no legal way to avoid the obligation, making the compulsion to execute the contract a contract made under duress and thus null and void under Common Law precedent.

    Congress has the right to levy taxes. That’s clearly constitutional. Congress has no constitutional right to force you to enter into a contract with a private company. No “interstate commerce clause” or “general welfare clause” argument could possibly withstand legal challenge.

  20. Anonymous said on 20 Feb 2010 at 4:42 pm:
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    Greg, I’m really not trying to disagree with you substantively, but I am uncomfortable with the accuracy of your legal reasoning. It’s similar, no offense, to the Tea Party oversimplification that I see and that I ultimately think is going to cost us elections long term. I think everyone already knows the argument, at least I hope so, that you’re making with regard to auto insurance, but I think you’re missing the point.

    The point was not that the auto insurance case is identical to the health insurance case, but rather that government at all levels can structure things to avoid the contract/fine issue you are asserting. In the auto insurance case the state governments, as you say, reference the fact that no one is making you drive on public roads. What that really means, though, is if you drive, you have to have insurance, because driving is not a right. So if you don’t drive, no problem. Now, for health insurance the argument will be some variation of the following–at some point in their lives everybody will use the health care system. If they don’t have some form of insurance they will rely on hospital indigent care, free clinics, or the like, all of which some one else will have to fund. So, if they don’t get insurance, they should pay a fee, just like you do in the case of auto insurance — you don’t have to buy auto insurance, but if you are going to use the system (which everyone in the health care case has to do at some point) without insurance, you should have to pay for doing so. To use your own words, Congress is not forcing you to enter into a contract with a private company. They are, however, taxing you for the health care services society will have to provide you in the absence of you having insurance. That, anyway, in some form or another is part (not the whole, just part) of the legal argument that is used, and while not black-and-white, it’s a strong one from a constitutional perspective.

    (By the way, your “common law precedent argument” does not apply. A statutory scheme adopted by Congress would override any such precedent).

    I’m not arguing with your substantive objections, just the reasoning. I’d rather us focus on the policy reasons for opposing it, rather than wasting time and money, or worse, relying on uninformed legal arguments. Everyone thinks Bob Marshall is a constitutional expert because of his opposition to the transportation plan, but really, every lawyer interested in the issue (even Assembly members who were more interested in passing the buck) thought the plan had serious constitutional problems based on the plain language of the VA constitution. It’s hard to believe McDonnell, as AG, thought it was constitutional, but I doubt he did. He was probably just lying low so as not to stand in its way, but also not be seen to support it to openly. The only other possible explanation would be complete incompetence, which I don’t think is the case. I realize I’m spouting an establishment Republican view, which is not on the ascendancy in the party in our Tea Party era, but I think it still deserves a voice.

  21. Greg L said on 20 Feb 2010 at 6:01 pm:
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    If some of these tea party movement ideals are supposedly oversimplificiations, I’ll stick with them regardless. When I’ve got Bob Marshall and Ken Cuccinelli on my side here — both of whom took those “oversimplifications” to the Virginia Supreme Court and won handily with them, I figure that in terms of legal reasoning they’re pretty darned sound.

    As for the insurance issue, your premise that instead of requiring you to buy health insurance the government is simply going to whallop you with a huge tax penalty if you don’t buy it, and that constitutes a meaningful difference is quite a stretch. Say you don’t buy it, because you’ve saved up enough money and are self-insuring. Then the government says you have to pay a fine (or special tax, or whatever) because you haven’t. You tell them to pound sand, because you’re not relying on gubbimint fer nuthin. Government then takes you to court, and you refuse to pay the judgment because the whole idea is ludicrous. Not getting payment, the government issues a warrant for your arrest on tax evasion, and then comes the U.S. Marshall’s breaking down your door, all ultimately because you didn’t buy health insurance.

    I’m sure you’ll appreciate the qualitative difference of not having been required to purchase health insurance here. Had you been required to buy it, well, the U.S. Marshall’s service could have broken down your door and hauled you off. No, wait, um…

    Could Congress throw out a whole chunk of common law in one shot and remove all protections from being forced into a contract under duress? You bet it could. Congress can change common law at any time, although the downsides of doing so are absolutely tremendous. Congress has refrained from doing anything other than minor tinkering in the past because of how terribly dangerous the practice is. Knocking the legs out from underneath contracts law would fundamentally change the nature of commerce in the US and open vast doors to predatory behavior that are unconscionable.

    Instead of robbing people, it would be more advantageous for criminals under such a scheme to put a gun to people’s heads and force them to sign outlandish contracts that these criminals could then have the courts enforce. That’s a pretty extreme example, but it wouldn’t be hard at all to find less dramatic examples of the same behavior that would be encouraged.

    Now if what you’re saying is an “establishment Republican view”, I’d be really interested in seeing which Republicans actually share that view with you. That would be a useful list to have.

  22. citizenofmanassas said on 20 Feb 2010 at 9:11 pm:
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    Driving is not a right. Nobody is forced to drive or even own a car. Which, means that person is not forced to buy insurance. That would not be the case with health insurance. And, that is the difference.

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