By Ralph Berrier Jr.
For the first time in 125 years, a Virginian is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee -- and it's U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke County.
Goodlatte, who represents Virginia's 6th Congressional District, was named to the post Wednesday, becoming just the fourth Virginian to be chairman of the committee and the first since John Tucker, who served from 1883 to 1887.
The committee has wide jurisdiction over a host of issues, from courts and taxes to immigration and technology.
"This is a great opportunity for me and my constituents," Goodlatte said in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon.
Goodlatte's election as chairman drew praise from his 9th District neighbor and fellow Republican, U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem.
"The Judiciary Committee is one of the 'A' committees," Griffith said.
"It is a big plum for our region. It's a benefit for our region. It deals with a lot of areas the general public doesn't pay attention to as much."
Economic growth is a primary goal of the committee, Goodlatte said, citing business regulations, immigration reform and intellectual property rights as several key issues his committee will tackle in the next Congress.
He pointed to the GOP-sponsored STEM Jobs Act, a bill that came through the Judiciary Committee and would eliminate the immigration visa lottery and replace it with a system that awarded green cards to foreign students studying science, technology and math, the "STEM" fields of study. That bill is set to be debated in the House of Representatives on Friday.
Goodlatte said that protecting intellectual property rights, especially on the Internet, is another important job for the committee.
Last year, as chairman of the Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet, Goodlatte drew protests from many Internet users for co-sponsoring the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill that aimed to protect American business interests from online theft. However, Wikipedia, Google, Craigslist and other websites vehemently opposed the bill, which was never brought to the floor for a vote.
Goodlatte said his committee will keep an eye on how the online businesses and the major websites work together to solve the problem of Internet piracy.
"The issues are not going away," he said. "We need to find ways that benefit both the creators of the content and the technology that delivers it to the consumers. We need to put all our great engineers together to find ways to fight crime on the Internet."
Goodlatte has been an active member on the Judiciary Committee. In addition to serving as chairman of the intellectual property subcommittee, he has been vice ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, ranking member of the Task Force on Judicial Impeachment and ranking member of the Antitrust Task Force.
Goodlatte also serves as a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee. He is co-chairman of the Congressional Internet Caucus, chairman of the House Republican Technology Working Group and chairman of the Congressional Civil Justice Caucus.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said in a statement that, "[as] Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, [Goodlatte] will play a key role in promoting common sense solutions to help people get back to work, lighten the regulatory and tax burden on small businesses and limit wasteful government spending. I look forward to continue working with my good friend and fellow Virginian."