Ariel M. Smith: One Step Closer to Becoming the New V.I. Attorney General

Committee of Rules and Judiciary member Sen. Carla Joseph, from left, V.I. Attorney General nominee Ariel Smith, Chairwoman Sen. Diane Capehart, and Sen. Novell Francis (Photo courtesy V.I. Legislature)

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr.’s nomination of Ariel M. Smith for V.I. Attorney General appeared to be a favorable decision among legislators of the Committee on Rules and Judiciary that met on Wednesday. 

The recent approval of acting Attorney General Carla Thomas-Jacobs for a V.I. Superior Court judgeship for the St. Thomas District opened the opportunity for Smith.

Smith expressed her gratitude by thanking her support system, from her family and friends to clients and neighbors. She also placed on the record some of her recent concerns, starting with several recent arrests for possession of unlicensed firearms in the territory. 

“Possession of an unlicensed firearm is not a mistake; it reflects an express intention to do harm to others in this community. Under my leadership, I can assure you that these matters will be zealously prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I intend to make conviction of those charged with this crime a priority during my tenure if confirmed,” Smith said.

When asked, Smith did not hesitate to give her thoughts on proposed legislation regarding a Speedy Trial Act. The act is to provide that trial may not begin less than 30 days from the date the defendant first appears in court, unless the defendant agrees in writing to an earlier date.

“In theory, I agree with the intent of the Speedy Trial Act, however given the noted lack of infrastructure and human resources that has been espoused by the Department of Justice, before the Territorial Public Defender and the courts, enactment of such a mandate, without the necessary resources, would be premature,” Smith said.

Among the other nominations to pass favorably for further consideration were Yvette D. Ross-Edwards, for Superior Court of the Virgin Islands, District of St. Croix, and Anna Wallace for the Virgin Islands Territorial Park Board of Trustees. 

Up for renomination of the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands, District of St. Croix, was Judge Harold Willocks, who was also favorably approved. 

Resolutions to pass through collaborative efforts from senators were honoring and commending Gregory Hodge, also known as DJ Avalanche, Myron Corbett, and also the Board of Elections.

Invited testifiers and stakeholder support also played a role in the approval of Bill No. 35-0012, an act amending the Virgin Islands Code relating to increasing the retirement pension for those retiring from the National Guard.

Also moving up the ladder for further consideration is Bill No. 35-0034, an act appropriating $3.2 million from the Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund as a loan to the V.I. Port Authority to cover legal, engineering, financial and other consulting fees associated with the Public Private Partnership project to modernize and enhance the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix and the Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas, and requiring the VIPA repay the funds to the fund within 90 days after the effective date of the contract.

“As we remained focused and committed to the completion of the agenda to fill critical vacancies in our territory’s departments, board and commissions, and the judicial branch, I am reminded of the value of the vetting process to ensure the best-qualified candidates are selected,” said Committee Chair Sen. Diane Capehart.

Capehart, Vice Chair Milton E. Potter, and committee members Angel L. Bolques Jr., Marise C. James, and Carla J. Joseph were present. Non-committee members Dwayne DeGraff, Novelle E. Francis Jr., Ray Fonseca, and Javan E. James Sr. were also in attendance at Wednesday’s hearing.