In 2017, shortly after white supremacist violence erupted in Charlottesville, Ramin did the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office’s legal analysis—at the request of the City Attorney—concluding that Virginia’s monument-removal statute would not prevent the City of Norfolk from removing its Confederate monument. Ramin’s reasoning paved the way for the removal of that monument following the protests against the murder of George Floyd.
Also in early 2019, Ramin conducted a study of marijuana-possession arrests and convictions in Norfolk. That study revealed that, though Norfolk is approximately 47% white and 43% African American, 90% of Norfolk’s marijuana-possession arrests were of African Americans. That starkly racially disparate outcome was something that the Office—and Ramin—could not abide.
Ramin became the primary author of the Office’s policy to dismiss all cases of simple marijuana possession in which the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office was involved. Norfolk started this vital conversation, and as of July 2020, thanks to the Virginia General Assembly, marijuana possession in Virginia is no longer a crime.
In July 2020, Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Greg Underwood joined eleven other Commonwealth’s Attorneys, together representing 42% of Virginians, to form Virginia Progressive Prosecutors for Justice (“VPPFJ”), a group dedicated to advocating for sensible reforms to Virginia’s criminal justice system.
Since early 2019 Ramin has served as the Chair of the Criminal Justice Reform Working Group of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. In that capacity, Ramin has helped to enact the Office’s criminal-justice-reform initiatives by giving operational structure to the criminal-justice-reform priorities of Greg Underwood, the Commonwealth’s Attorney.
Norfolk’s decision to cease prosecuting marijuana-possession cases—though both far-sighted and morally right—was controversial at the time, and several of Norfolk’s judges refused to allow Norfolk prosecutors to dismiss marijuana-possession cases. Ramin was the lead lawyer in those cases, and Ramin filed suit in the Virginia Supreme Court to ensure that prosecutors all over Virginia had the power to exercise their constitutionally-granted discretion.
In October of 2020, the Virginia General Assembly passed a law restoring the right of prosecutors to have the last word on where to fight hard and where to show deserved mercy by deciding which cases to prosecute and which cases to dismiss.
As Chair, in early 2019 Ramin was the primary author of the Office’s policy abolishing cash bail as a tool for prosecution, instructing all Norfolk prosecutors to cease demanding cash bail, and authorizing the Commonwealth’s independent magistrates to cease using cash bail where the law had otherwise required it. You can read that policy here and the letter to the magistrates here.
In October 2020, the Virginia General Assembly aligned Virginia’s trial procedures to match the federal government and 44 other states in assigning the factual decision of whether an accused person is guilty to a jury of one’s peers and the technical decision of an equitable sentence to a trained judge.
Ramin lobbied for this change, behind the scenes and in public, on behalf of the Commonwealth’s Attorneys of Norfolk, Fairfax County, Arlington County, and Albemarle County, and he considers it a highlight of his career to have done so.