2015 Virginia Annual Survey: Wills, Trusts, and Estates

William Gray, Jr. *

Katherine E. Ramsey **

The inactivity of Virginia’s General Assembly and state courts in the area of wills, trusts, and estates, noted in this summary in 2014,[1] continued this year. Legislation was generally limited to clarifications and technical corrections to existing laws on such subjects as creditor protection for certain trust assets, access to digital assets, qualification of personal representatives, and disposition of dead bodies. Three cases dealt with the doctrine of survivorship for administrators, interpretation of shareholder agreements, and the period for seeking removal of an executor.

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The Court of Appeals of Virginia Celebrates Thirty Years of Service to the Commonwealth

The Honorable Stephen R. McCullough *

The Honorable Marla Graff Decker **

On June 2, 2015, the Supreme Court of Virginia convened a special session to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the Court of Appeals of Virginia. This anniversary affords the opportunity to look back on the court’s creation and to consider its evolution over the last three decades.

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The McDonnell Case: A Clarification of Corruption Law or a Confusing Application of Corruption Law

Henry L. Chambers, Jr. *

On September 4, 2014, Governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen G. McDonnell, were convicted in federal court of various crimes related to their relationship with Jonnie Williams, a Virginia businessman, and his company Star Scientific.[1] Earlier in the year, the McDonnells were charged in a fourteen-count indictment primarily consisting of public corruption charges.[2] Governor McDonnell faced one count of conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud, three counts of honest-services wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right, six counts of obtaining property under color of official right, and two counts of providing false statements, one on a financial statement and one on a loan application.[3] Governor McDonnell was convicted on all counts except the two false statement charges.[4] Mrs. McDonnell faced the same charges as Governor McDonnell, except she faced only one of the two false statement charges and was also charged with obstructing an official proceeding.[5]

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The “Test” – or Lack thereof – for Issuance of Virginia Temporary Injunctions: The Current Uncertainty and a Recommended Approach based on Federal Preliminary Injunction Law

The Honorable David W. Lannetti *

Preliminary injunctive relief, where a movant[1] is awarded a court order prior to final judgment on the merits of a dispute, serves a necessary role in equity jurisprudence. Courts typically state that preliminary relief is an extraordinary remedy designed to preserve the status quo, with some courts opining that this purpose simply describes the abstract goal of preliminary relief [2] and others holding that movants must satisfy a higher burden when seeking injunctions that alter the status quo.[3] After significant evolution, federal courts developed a four-part test for preliminary injunctions,[4] which the circuit courts of appeals have universally accepted but inconsistently applied.[5] The Supreme Court of the United States subsequently resolved this circuit split in part,[6] yet the circuit courts still adhere to different approaches when applying the test.[7]

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Developments in Animal Law: An Evolving Area in Virginia Law

Ryan Murphy *

On December 15, 2013, my wife and I welcomed a puppy into our family. We love dogs, grew up with them, but we had never raised one (or any living creature for that matter). As I drove to our Richmond Fan apartment from the foster home in Goochland, I felt helpless while he scratched at the carrier, frantic and screeching. During his first weeks with us, he smelled, relieved himself frequently and anywhere, and exhibited signs of abdominal distress that sent us on a trip to the companion animal equivalent of an emergency room.

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Virginia’s Water Resource Law: A System of Exemptions and Preferences Challenging the Future of Public Health, the Environment, and Economic Development

Jefferson D. Reynolds *

There is plenty of water in Virginia. The problem is there are plenty of people, too. As population growth in the Commonwealth continues to place higher demands on water resources, competition among users naturally rises. Water for energy production, agriculture, domestic, industry, and other uses becomes more difficult to allocate, resulting in winners and losers based on availability of supply. Although Virginia has adopted a permitting framework[1] to improve water resource management, exemptions and preferential treatment provided to riparian landowners and historic users in the Virginia Code are increasingly problematic.[2] These classes benefit from preferred legal status for water without regard to water availability, effects on other users, or whether it is being put to the most beneficial use.

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Socioeconomic Integration and the Greater Richmond School District: The Feasibility of Interdistrict Consolidation

Barry Gabay *

Stark disparities in public education within the Greater Richmond area are commonplace and have been for over a century. Richmond Public Schools primarily consist of an impoverished student body attending dilapidated schools. Meanwhile Richmond’s bordering suburban counties, Chesterfield and Henrico, generally enjoy state-of-the-art learning facilities attended by far more economically diverse student bodies. Today’s inequities can only be understood with recognition of a history of institutionalized segregation in the Richmond area—a history that is ingrained within the municipal offices, along the public transportation system, and, especially, inside the schools. The problem is that in the Richmond area, a child’s place of residence, rather than his academic aptitude, greatly determines his educational ceiling, and the setup of local governments within Virginia inflames the problem.

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Police Body Cameras: Implementation with Caution, Forethought, and Policy

Dru S. Letourneau *

On August 9, 2014, Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, on a Ferguson, Missouri street. The incident immediately ignited protests in the Ferguson area. Several of these demonstrations included rioting, looting, and violence. In response, officials used force, military-style tactics, and military-grade weapons. In November 2014, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon called the National Guard to attempt to restore order and keep the peace.

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