A good choice by Delegate Morris

Published 9:57 pm Friday, March 3, 2017

Delegate Rick Morris’ announcement this week that he will not be seeking re-election to office as the representative to the General Assembly from the House of Delegates’ 64th District is a positive development following six months of worrisome and scandalous allegations and counter-allegations related to his personal life.

Morris faces charges of child cruelty and assault and battery of a family member, charges that will be adjudicated in court this spring. A litany of similar charges was dismissed in Suffolk Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court late last year in a hearing that was closed to the media.

Throughout the process, Morris has maintained his innocence, and he has made a number of claims about the adolescent boy at the center of the mess and about the court’s pronouncements regarding the original charges that cannot be independently verified because of the court’s decision to close the original hearing. He also pressed counter-charges against his wife, although those charges also were dismissed in the J&DR hearing.

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In the end, the court will decide whether Morris is guilty of the four remaining charges. We make no claim here to have any insight into the matter, and we, along with the commonwealth, are eager to know how justice will be served in the matter.

We also believe it was improper for the Republican leadership in the House of Delegates to have called for Morris’ resignation upon the announcement of the original charges. If legislators can be dispossessed of their elected duties simply on the basis of unfounded charges against them, then there’s nothing to stop anyone from targeting someone from an opposing party with scurrilous unfounded accusations.

On the other hand, it’s clear that Morris’ effectiveness in the latest legislative session was hindered by the charges against him. The simple fact that he served on the Courts of Justice committee and was charged with vetting a judge who would serve in the court district where his case will be heard opened Morris up to charges of using his legislative position to benefit himself, even though his new charges will not be heard in that judge’s courtroom.

The better choice for Morris is the one he finally took: to announce that he would focus his future efforts on his family and that he would not seek re-election.

Already, at least four candidates have announced they will seek election to Morris’ seat. While Morris focuses on his family and his defense, Western Tidewater can now focus on choosing the candidate most likely to go to Richmond next year without sordid distractions. That’s good news for everybody.