Virginia Supreme Court to hear oral arguments for Gloucester 40

By Quinton Sheppard, Gloucester-Mathews Gazette-Journal – 3/18/2010

The case of 40 Gloucester residents who petitioned to have four county supervisors removed from office in 2008 has been calendared for oral argument to a writ panel on March 31 in Virginia’s Supreme Court.

According to L. Steven Emmert, the Virginia Beach appellate attorney representing the 40 citizens, three justices will consider whether the Supreme Court should take the case for a decision on the merits on March 31.

The 40 appealed to Virginia’s highest court contesting the $80,000 in sanctions ($2,000 each) that substitute Circuit Court Judge Westbrook Parker ordered them to pay in December 2008.

The group attempted to oust through recall petitions former Gloucester Board of Supervisor member Teresa Altemus as well as supervisors Bobby Crewe, Michelle Ressler and Gregory Woodard. In finding against the petitioners, Parker said that he had “never seen more misuse of the judicial system.”

Emmert said it only takes one justice to grant the writ. “If the panel grants the writ, the case will be briefed again and will be argued to the full court later this year, probably in September or November,” he said.

Emmert expects to get a ruling on his petition within three to four weeks after the argument date. “So that news should arrive in April,” he said. “It might be as soon as the following week, but there’s no way to predict that.”

The removal effort petitioners pursued followed a five-month special grand jury investigation that returned 14 misdemeanor indictments against the four supervisors on July 8, 2008.

The indictments charged malfeasance, misfeasance and misuse of office in connection with the four supervisors’ actions during and immediately following their controversial board of supervisors’ meeting of Jan. 2/3, 2008. Criminal and civil charges were later dropped against the four members of the governing body.

WHRO award
In other news, the group of 40 citizens was notified last week that they were chosen to receive WHRO-TV’s second annual Community Impact Award. According to Patricia Cowan, spokesperson of the Gloucester County Citizens for Accountable Representation, Dominion Virginia Power and WHRO partnered to recognize those who make significant contributions to the Greater Hampton Roads area in the field of social justice.

Along with the award comes $1,000 that the group has stated it will donate to various local charities. Members of the 40 will be formally recognized in May at Norfolk’s Waterside Marriott Hotel, Cowan said.

This award follows an award the Daily Press newspaper, Newport News, gave the group last month, chosen as its “Citizens of the Year” for 2009.

“The 40 Gloucester citizens rallied the community and strengthened state law, while enabling the principles of democracy to be demonstrated and affirmed,” Cowan said.

“We have inspired other groups throughout the area to stand up and engage in their communities,” she concluded.