Race issue conundrum raised in sex allegations
Publish date: 12 February 2019
Issue Number: 4636
Diary: Legalbrief Today
A Democratic lawmaker in Virginia has sent his colleagues a draft resolution that would begin impeachment proceedings against Lt Governor Justin Fairfax, who is facing multiple allegations of sexual assault. According to a report in The New York Times, the resolution directs a House committee to determine whether allegations of sexual assault against Fairfax by two women, Meredith Watson and Vanessa C Tyson, ‘constitute conduct sufficient to provide grounds for impeachment’. In an e-mail accompanying the draft, the lawmaker, Patrick A Hope, emphasised that the resolution ‘is not impeachment. It is a process to investigate whether the Courts Committee would recommend impeachment’. Virginia Democrats, who are reeling from more than a week of extraordinary turmoil, are caught in a tough bind after the state’s Governor and Attorney-General both admitted to wearing blackface as young men. Many Democrats have called for Fairfax to resign over the assault allegations. But some Democrats are wary of impeaching the Lieutenant Governor, who is black, while sparing the Governor and Attorney-General, who are white and have resisted calls to step down after admitting to racist conduct. The Democrats also do not hold a majority in the House and are thus not free to set the agenda. A spokesperson for Fairfax said that while he was ‘aggressively exploring options for a thorough, independent and impartial investigation,’ an impeachment proceeding was ‘an inherently political process’ that would not present ‘the most likely path for learning the truth’.