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Supreme Court hears JIRC case

The best that could be said for Virginia Beach J&DR Judge Ramona D. Taylor was that she “bumbled through” an assault case and “made a pretty serious error,” Justice Lawrence L. Koontz Jr. observed today.

“Why shouldn’t censure be appropriate?” he asked her attorney, Kevin Martingayle.

Martingayle responded that judicial canons don’t contemplate censure for a good faith, albeit wrong, ruling by a judge. And he noted that the court has refused to censure a judge it concluded had made serious legal errors.

A few minutes later, Koontz noted to Don Curry, counsel to the Judicial Inquiry & Review Commission, that the court had been “very spare in terms of censure and removal. … Why should we do it here?”

Curry responded that the case was very close to that of former Virginia Beach J&DR Judge Woodrow Lewis Jr., who was censured in 2002 for sending a litigant to jail for contempt after a circuit court had stayed the order on which the citation was based.

Taylor convicted a 15-year-old of assault and ordered him to detention. She denied his attorney’s motion for an immediate disposition so he could appeal and for bail after the initial request was denied.

Taylor said the decision to lock up the defendant between trial and sentencing was “an interlocutory, non-appealable order.”

The boy was locked up for nine days until a circuit judge granted a petition for a writ of mandamus and released him to his parents pending a trial de novo.

Taylor’s order was at odds with the fundamental judicial principle that every order is subject to appellate review, Curry said.

The court is expected to rule in the case on Nov. 6.

By Alan Cooper

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