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Chesterfield clerk sues chief judge

Things must be a little prickly in the Chesterfield County Courthouse.

Judy L. Worthington, clerk of circuit court, has filed a petition for a writ of prohibition and a writ of mandamus against Chief Judge Michael C. Allen over the designation of Aubrey M. Davis Jr., an attorney and former prosecutor in the county, as a marriage celebrant.

According to the petition, Worthington directed her staff in October to remove from the list of celebrants on the clerk of court page on the Chesterfield County Web site those celebrants who had not been authorized to perform marriages by the court. Davis’ name came off the list as a result.

Last month, Allen entered an order, citing Virginia Code Sec. 20-25, authorizing Davis to perform marriages. The order also directed Worthington to add Davis to the list of celebrants “on the Court’s and/or Clerk’s website(s)” once Davis enters into an unsecured bond of $500 as required by the code section.

Worthington has refused to comply with the order. She notes that she has no information that Davis has posted the bond and cites Code Sec. 17.1-275(A)(18) as requiring Davis to pay her office the $10 fee that can be assessed “[f]or all services rendered by the clerk in any court proceeding for which no specific fee is provided by law.”

After Allen responded in a handwritten note that Sec. 20-25, in effect, supersedes Sec. 17.1-275(A)(18), Worthington retained Roanoke attorneys William B. Poff and Frank K. Friedman to file the suit. It was served on Allen on Dec. 1 and filed with the Supreme Court yesterday.

In addition to making the statutory argument, Worthington also contends that Allen has no authority to order her to post anything on the county, as opposed to the court, Web site.

By Alan Cooper

6 comments

  1. Who is paying the attorney’s fees?

  2. The day I was sworn in as circuit clerk in 1975, the senior retired judge advised that the primary responsibility a clerk and a judge had for one another was to keep each other out of trouble and the penitentiary. Filing law suits would seem contrary to that good admonition. How sad.

    Mike Foreman, retired Clerk of Circuit
    Court, Winchester

  3. I have found that it makes sense to make the Clerk of Court comfortable in doing her/his job, rather than insist on something being done my way, even when I feel certain I am right, particularly where there are no great moral issues at stake or significant damage to my client in gently acceding to the Clerk’s viewpoint. This is the oil that preserves the mechanism of working relationhips.

  4. For 15 of the 28 years I was clerk of the circuit court, I spoke each year to newly appointed and elected clerks and for 10 of the 28 years I spoke
    annually to newly elected circuit judges on the topic “Judge-Clerk Relations.” Source materials included The Code of Virginia, some professional writings on management and many
    personal examples supplied by judges and clerks. And in none of those presentations did I ever suggest that one of the responsibilities
    for the judges was to “make the Clerk of the Court comfortable.” Alas, my dereliction may be responsible for the exisiting problems in Chesterfield. If so, I apologize to all concerned, but were I asked to do it again, I would never
    suggest judges had any obligation to “make the clerk comfortable”. I did tell the clerks they had some obligation to they to make the judges comfortable as they are the ones who face the
    bigger responsibilities in the scheme of things.
    Has that changed?

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