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Challenge to local court rule denied

A writ of prohibition does not lie to challenge certain local court rules of the 17th Judicial Circuit.


“Petitioner is the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church. On March 4, 2020, the judges of the 17th Judicial Circuit ordered that all motions to ‘(1) amend an indictment pretrial, (2) enter a nolle prosequi or (3) dismiss a case shall be in writing; said motion shall provide in detail all factual and not purely conclusory bases in support thereof.’ The order requires that each motion be signed by counsel ‘to the best of counsel’s belief after reasonable inquiry and warranted by existing law.’

“The order further requires that ‘for continuity of established practices and consistent with 17th Cir. R[ules of] P[rocedure],’ all sentencing guidelines and justifications for any recommendation for an upward or downward departure ‘shall be in writing and filed with the Clerk of Court,’ no later than the day before the scheduled hearing.

“Petitioner seeks a writ from this Court directed at the judges of the 17th Judicial Circuit prohibiting the court from enforcing the order.”

No writ

“The writ of prohibition is a common law writ to correct encroachments of jurisdiction by inferior courts and is used to keep inferior courts’ exercise of authority within the limits and bounds prescribed by law. …

“Prohibition remedies an excess of jurisdiction, and it issues to an inferior court ‘commanding them to cease from prosecution of a suit, upon a suggestion that either the cause originally, or some collateral matter arising therein, does not belong to that jurisdiction, but to the cognizance of some other court.’ … The only inquiry ‘which will be entertained is as to the jurisdiction’ of the inferior court. …

“‘Jurisdiction is the power to adjudicate a case upon the merits and dispose of it as justice  may require.’ … Relevant to determining if prohibition is appropriate are ‘subject matter jurisdiction, which is the authority granted through constitution or statute to adjudicate a class of cases or controversies [and] territorial jurisdiction, that is authority over persons, things, or occurrences located in a defined geographic area.’ …

“The analysis required to determine if prohibition is an appropriate remedy necessarily presupposes the existence of a case or controversy before the inferior court. A case or controversy is necessary to analyze whether the inferior court had ‘subject matter of the controversy, jurisdiction of the parties, and the amount in dispute.’ …

“Petitioner has not identified a specific matter in which the circuit court has exceeded its jurisdictional boundaries, and, therefore, prohibition does not lie.

“Accordingly, the petition is dismissed.”

In re: Dehghani-Tafti, Record No. 201004, Dec. 18, 2020. Upon a Petition for a Writ of Prohibition. Jon Myer Talotta for petitioner, Cullen Dennis Seltzer, Sean Michael Hutson for respondent judges.  VLW 020-6-081, 2 pp.