Gloucester 40 to get first hearing before state Supreme Court

By Matt Sabo, The Daily Press – 3/16/2010

GLOUCESTER – The Virginia Supreme Court will listen to arguments from an attorney in two weeks on why it should hear the appeal of 40 Gloucester citizens who were fined $2,000 apiece by a judge after they tried to oust four county supervisors from office.

Steve Emmert, a Virginia Beach appellate attorney, said Monday that the state’s highest court sent notice last week that his appeal is on the writ panel schedule for March 31.

Emmert will be allowed 10 minutes to argue why the Supreme Court should hear the appeal. Only the appellate side is granted the time for arguments, meaning attorneys for four county supervisors will not be arguing their side. The Supreme Court will later notify Emmert whether it will hear the case.

“I’m not surprised by this at all,” Emmert said. “It’s the next step in the natural development in this case.”

The 40 Gloucester citizens filed an appeal with the Virginia Supreme Court in November that seeks to overturn $80,000 in sanctions levied against them by a judge who said they misused the judicial system in trying to remove four county supervisors from office. The 40 citizens cite a violation of the First and 14th Amendments in arguing that Judge Westbrook J. Parker overstepped his bounds in sanctioning them.

The citizens also argue that attorneys for the supervisors, Bobby Crewe, Michelle Ressler, Gregory Woodard and Teresa Altemus, should not have been awarded $171,000 in attorneys’ fees because Parker ruled to non-suit the petitions. Altemus was voted out of office in November after 16 years of representing the York District.

Gloucester County has paid nearly $350,000 in legal bills rung up by Crewe, Ressler, Woodard and Altemus to defend themselves against the petitions, the misdemeanor indictments that were later dismissed on technicalities, and a citizens’ attempt to obtain an injunction to halt the taxpayer-funded payments.