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Judge cancels council’s resolution to close condemned jail

PORTSMOUTH (AP) A judge has reaffirmed his previous ruling that Portsmouth must repair its jail instead of condemning it after the city council passed a resolution defying his orders.

Circuit Judge Johnny Morrison said March 13  that his order to keep Portsmouth City Jail open was very clear, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

Portsmouth officials condemned its jail in July after investigators deemed the complex unfit for human occupancy. Sheriff Michael Moore challenged the move in court.

Morrison ruled in January that the city couldn’t close the jail and must make repairs so the facility would be safe and operational. The estimated repairs would cost about $300,000.

Portsmouth City Council passed a resolution last week to close its jail despite Morrison’s ruling. The city argued that the language of the judge’s order indicated the city doesn’t have to keep a jail open in that spot,

On Friday, Morrison again ruled that the city could not close the jail regardless of how many resolutions the council approves.

During the heated hearing, Morrison asked City Attorney Solomon Ashby what part of the order didn’t he understand and what about the order made Ashby think he could advise council members to vote for a closure, the newspaper reported.

Morrison said he could hold city officials in contempt if they defy his order. He also said if the city didn’t approve of his ruling, they can appeal. The city has already filed notice that it will appeal.

The city and the sheriff remain at odds over whether to send inmates to the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in the meantime, the paper said.

The judge gave the pair additional time to continue negotiations. The next court hearing is set for June 16.

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