The judge in the Gloucester recall petition case says he will give the petitioners another hearing on who has to pay the $80,000 attorney fee award he ordered.
The case has become a lightning rod for citizen activists and free speech advocates who criticized the decision by substitute Judge Westbrook J. Parker to impose defense costs on 40 citizens who unsuccessfully petitioned the court to remove four elected officials from office.
In a letter opinion this week, Parker said, “This case, like all cases, is about responsibility and accountability. The duty of the court system is to determine who is responsible, and thereafter to hold that party accountable. Therefore, I will allow the petitioners another opportunity to present evidence on the sole issue of who is responsible for the attorneys fees.”
At the hearing, Parker said, the petitioners can testify as to the basis for the petitions and the source of the information and be cross examined by attorneys for the supervisors they sought to oust from office.
The Virginia General Assembly this year passed a bill to bar court sanctions against citizens who petition to remove elected officials from office.
The petitioners’ new attorney, Steve Emmert, told the Daily Press he will appeal if the judge does not rescind the attorney fee sanction.
By Peter Vieth