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Del. Vallario has been a champion of victims' rights [Letter]

Commentator Sidney Rocke laments that "Maryland Del. Joe Vallario rules the House Judiciary Committee with an iron fist" ("A dictator in the House?" May 5).

After the murder of Stephanie Roper 32 years ago, Delegate Vallario stepped up and has been the lead sponsor of victims' rights legislation in the Maryland House of Delegates — first for the Stephanie Roper Committee Inc., and now for its successor, the Maryland Crime Victims' Resource Center.

Listed on MCVRC's website under "Law and Policy" is a compilation of victims' rights laws in Maryland, most of which were sponsored by Mr. Vallario. In fact, across the country there is perhaps no other legislator who has advanced victims' rights more than Mr. Vallario.

Mr. Rocke accuses Mr. Vallario of being against the victims of crimes, claiming that abuse was "heaped on crime victims and their advocates before his committee." However, it is wrong to attempt to portray Mr. Vallario as closed minded and unwilling to listen to others or make changes when changes are needed. In fact, there is no committee in Annapolis that allows every testifier to have his or her say even when doing so often extends the hearing into the evening.

Often when we discuss victims' rights, we refer to the time in early America when victims served as prosecutors — before there were governmental prosecutors as there are today. When we discuss victims' rights 32 years ago, we refer to a time when victims had no rights.

But references to the past do not mean we believe the past is the way things should be today. We cite the past to place the law in a historical perspective. Victims in Maryland would not have rights to participate in law today without the efforts of Mr. Vallario and others. The fact that Mr. Vallario is a criminal defense attorney has not prevented him from being champion for victims' rights in Maryland.

We have not always agreed with Mr. Vallario. However, he has always been upfront and honest with us. Unlike many other politicians who give lip service or who are evasive regarding their positions, he is straightforward about where he stands.

During this past legislative session, several victims' rights bills passed the House of Delegates with Mr. Vallario's support. It is simply inaccurate to characterize him as skeptical of victims' rights. His outstanding leadership in support of victims' interests and his record speak for themselves.

Roberta Roper, Upper Marlboro

Russell P. Butler, Dunkirk

The writers are, respectively, board chair/founder and executive director of the Maryland Crime Victims' Resource Center.

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