Lt. Governor's Office says it doesn't have money to publish official opinions, as V.I. law requires
Published: March 6, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Lt. Governor's Office shares at least part of the responsibility for the territory's lack of any up-to-date publications of official opinions from the V.I. Attorney General's Office.
The V.I. Code imposes the following requirement on the territory's second-highest-ranking executive officer: "The Lieutenant Governor shall distribute or cause to be distributed within five weekdays after issuance of any document required to be published in accordance with section 982, subsection (a) of this title and immediately after issuance by the Attorney General of any written opinion of legal and general significance, at least two copies thereof to each of the libraries designated in section 941 of this title."
This section of the law lists 14 libraries and offices throughout the territory, as well as any additional libraries designated as depository libraries under a separate section of the law.
The part of the law requiring the Lt. Governor's Office to publish opinions from the Attorney General's Office was added to the code in 1982 and has not been revised since, according to an online database of the territory's laws.
Shawna Richards, the spokeswoman for the Lt. Governor's Office, acknowledged that the office bears a statutory responsibility for publishing certain legal documents, including rules, regulations, executive orders and opinions issued by the Attorney General's Office.
"Unfortunately, budgetary constraints have restricted our ability to meet this obligation," Richards wrote in an email. "We do, however, make documents received by this office available to the public through placement in the public libraries."
Richards said the administration of Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis has not received any such documents from the Attorney General's Office.
The public availability of opinions from the Attorney General's Office came into question last month after The Daily News made a number of inquiries seeking access to any compilations of these opinions.
The V.I. Code assigns 16 "powers and duties" to the attorney general. Among them is one requiring the attorney general "to keep books in which he shall record all the official opinions given by him during his term of office, and deliver the same to his successor in office."
Attorney General Vincent Frazer said in an interview last month that his office has not collected or compiled such opinions.
"The formal opinions, we don't have a compilation of them," Frazer said. "We don't have a publication. We don't publish them."
The V.I. Superior Court library on St. Thomas maintains bound collections of opinions from attorneys general from 1935 to 1986, seven attorneys general ago. The District Court library on St. Thomas has a similar collection of books spanning 1935 to 1978.
No opinions from attorneys general are available on the V.I. Attorney General's Office website.
Frazer acknowledged that the opinions "haven't been published in years." Like Richards, he also blamed funding for the lack of compliance with the law.
- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.