Citizen Government in Gloucester

What does Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, have in common with Gloucester County, Virginia?

Politicians and judges who try their mightiest to keep citizens from influencing government.

In Wilkes-Barre, a judge ruled that Denise Carey would have to pay the court costs for the money spent by the city to trounce her attempt to put a local issue to a vote.

In Gloucester, a group of citizens got angry at four newly elected members of the county’s Board of Supervisors. The four had participated in a closed meeting. So some folks worked to get a Grand Jury, which indicted the supervisors, and then they petitioned to recall them.

The judge who got the case was neither respectful nor amused. He threw out the indictments — and, citing a minor technicality, the petitions too.

He then ruled that the citizen activist group owed $80,000, to cover a majority of the supervisors’ legal bills.

As I told you a few weeks ago, the Wilkes-Barre case had a good ending, with higher courts reversing the judge’s decision.

In Gloucester County, the ACLU is coming to the aid of the group, and the state legislature is considering a law preventing judges in future cases from punishing citizens exercising their rights.

Great — but wouldn’t it be better if politicians and judges respected citizen rights in the first place?

That would be Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.