Richmond Circuit Judge Beverly W. Snukals has denied an injunction in a Democratic party lawsuit intended to head off Republican control of the Virginia Senate.
In a suit filed by Sen. Don McEachin, D-Richmond, against Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, the Democrats asked the court to declare that Bolling was not entitled to vote to break a tie on certain matters in the upcoming General Assembly. Specifically, McEachin asked the court to halt Bolling from voting on Senate organization, election of judges, tax matters, amendments to the Constitution and other matters that require a majority vote of members elected to each house.
Snukals said the controversy is not yet “ripe” because “a series of events would have to occur” for the Democrats to suffer injury. The contested matter would have to get through committee, the Senate would have to vote, the vote would have to be a tie, the lieutenant governor would have to vote to break the tie, and the governor might ultimately have to approve the matter or sign the legislation. Court intervention at this early stage would amount to “an impermissible advisory opinion,” Snukals wrote in her opinion released this morning.
The judge said it was “equally speculative that an evenly divided Senate will vote along party lines on such matters.” She said the Democrats’ proffered evidence – newspaper articles and a radio interview with Bolling – was insufficient to create “an actual controversy.”
Snukals also said that under the state constitution’s separation of powers, “this Court cannot intervene in the normal operating procedures of the Senate” and prevent one of the state’s highest officials from performing his constitutional duties.
The balance of equities did not favor either side and “no matter how the Court rules, arguably some interest of the public may be affected,” Snukals said. She denied the motion for a temporary injunction.
By Deborah Elkins