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Civil Procedure – Recusal – Attorney Sanctions

Deborah Elkins//January 18, 2010

Civil Procedure – Recusal – Attorney Sanctions

Deborah Elkins//January 18, 2010

Although an Augusta County Circuit Court has sanctioned a lawyer $2,000 under Va. Code § 8.01-271.1, the judge declines to recuse himself from the case at issue, finding that to do so would be shirking his judicial duties.

I believe the lawyer in question would agree that all our contacts prior to Dec. 28, 2009, were cordial and entirely professional. I do not believe he has cited or could cite any instance prior to that date, in any of his appearances before the court, in which I have demonstrated anything other than appropriate judicial temperament, or when I have impugned his integrity, or when I otherwise have failed to afford him the courtesy and respect due to him as an attorney practicing in this court.

The lawyer has given no reason to request my recusal except for the court’s opinion of Dec. 28 imposing sanctions against him. He has cited no other conduct, comment or action on may part from which one could infer that I have any bias or prejudice against him or any of his clients.

Although the letter opinion of Dec. 28 did reflect my findings of fact and conclusions of law supporting the conclusion that the lawyer violated Code § 8.01-271.1, the decision did not reflect any prejudice or bias against the lawyer; rather, it addressed the inadequacy of the pleadings, his lack of care in preparing them, and his misreading of the law in those cases. No judge can properly or fairly impose sanctions without stating why that remedy is appropriate, and obviously, the reasons for imposing them must be significant and are almost necessarily uncomplimentary to the attorney. That is a decision, of course, which he is free to appeal.

Chester v. County of Augusta (Ludwig, J.) No. CL09001383-00, Jan. 12, 2010; Augusta County Cir.Ct.; Francis Chester; Patrick J. Morgan, County Att’y. VLW 010-8-011, 2 pp.

VLW 010-8-011

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