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Gun rights petitioners ask court to dismiss governor's subpoena

Stephen Igo • Updated Oct 30, 2017 at 12:49 PM

WISE — Petitioners seeking to have their right to possess firearms restored before the Wise County Circuit Court have filed a motion challenging last week's motion by Wise County Commonwealth's Attorney C.H. 'Chuck' Slemp III to subpoena Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam to present evidence in their cases and ask that Slemp recuse himself from their cases.

On Monday, attorney Richard Kennedy, on behalf of four clients petitioning the court to restore their right to possess firearms, filed a four-count motion to quash Slemp's motion to subpoena the governor and lieutenant governor, including accusing Slemp of partisan politics.

Kennedy calls Slemp's motion a "brash subpoena request" in asking the court "to sanction, authorize and participate in the improvident issuance of these subpoenas" and asks the court to "summarily decline ... and overrule" them.

Kennedy said the state Supreme Court, in ruling the governor's restoration of rights to convicted felons was legitimate, "specifically prohibits this attempt at disruptive, irrelevant and overbroad discovery" to the executive branch, "which is exactly what we have here in this current motion before the court."

Kennedy also argues the "partisan political nature and timing of these subpoenas reveals the true intent of utilizing the judicial process to affect the current gubernatorial election; especially by issuing an illegitimate subpoena to the lieutenant governor, who of course just coincidentally happens to be the Democratic candidate in the gubernatorial election."

Kennedy asserts the lieutenant governor "has never been a party or even referenced in any of the Supreme Court cases" involving restoration of rights to convicted felons, noting a lieutenant governor "is not cloaked with the power or authority" to do so, "a right reserved exclusively to the governor."

Kennedy argues the lieutenant governor "could never be a material or relevant witness in this matter other than for the purpose of harassment, prejudice and inconvenience." In his final argument to quash Slemp's motion, Kennedy said his clients are entitled to due process in a timely matter and claims Slemp's actions "are delaying and affecting those basic rights of the petitioners by the interjection of collateral, inappropriate and partisan issues into this proceeding."

Kennedy also asks Slemp to "recuse himself and his office from these cases and request a special prosecutor be appointed to avoid any further delay or inappropriate political manipulation of these legitimate court actions brought by citizens with every right to seek the restoration of their firearms in a fair, impartial and untainted judicial process."

When he filed his motion to subpoena the governor and lieutenant governor last week, Slemp, a Republican, denied there were any political motives involved, referring to a prior petition case by a convicted felon to have his right to possess firearms restored and where the judge, in handing down his decision to deny, questioned the procedures used to restore those rights.

To fully satisfy the court's curiosity this time around, Slemp said he sought information from Kennedy's clients regarding the process their rights were restored, and having received no reply to that request during the ongoing discovery phase, decided to "go to the source" by having the governor and lieutenant governor provide that information.

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