Wednesday, January 14, 2009

VA Supreme Court Hears Declaration Arguments

Yesterday's arguments before the Supreme Court of Virginia regarding the Wiscasset Declaration of Independence went off as scheduled, the Times-Dispatch reports. Maine's assistant attorney general argued that "Public documents belong to the government, they don't belong to people," maintaining that the 1776 Salem imprint of the Declaration should be returned to the town of Wiscasset (which in 1776 was Pownalborough, MA). Attorneys for Richard Adams, the collector who now owns the document, argued that since there is no evidence that the Declaration was in town custody from 1776 through 1994 (when it was found in the attic of a former town clerk's family home), the state has no grounds to claim it.

Adams' lawyers argued yesterday that the copy of the Declaration hand-copied into the town's record books by then-clerk became the official copy of record, and that since there is nothing to indicate what town officials wanted done with the printed copy, the broadside's title is clear. Thomas Knowlton, Maine's lawyer, "
told the justices that to prove it is a public town record, Maine need only show that Russell, a private printer, was acting in an official capacity when he printed the copies and that the town had possession of it for as little as one day."

The Supreme Court of Virginia is the court of last resort for Maine, which cannot appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court since there is no federal issue at stake in the case. A ruling is expected before the end of February.

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