Chesapeake Circuit Court Judge John Brown dismissed a petition to recall Senator Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) on Friday. Conservatives in her district had obtained about 8,000 signatures to remove Lucas, alleging misuse of office, but the court sided with Lucas’ legal team who argued that Virginia senators can only be recalled by a two-thirds vote in the Senate. Separate provisions in the Code of Virginia and the Virginia Constitution detail processes for removing elected officials, but the Lucas team argued that only the constitutional provision applies to state legislators, and that therefore the court did not have jurisdiction, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
Article Four, Section Seven of the Virginia Constitution states, “Each house shall judge of the election, qualification, and returns of its members, may punish them for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds of its elected membership, may expel a member.”
Virginia Code Section 24.2-233 states, “Upon petition, a circuit court may remove from office any elected officer or officer who has been appointed to fill an elective office, residing within the jurisdiction of the court.”
The court agreed with Lucas’ team, and dismissed the case with prejudice, a legal phrase meaning the case can’t be re-filed on the same grounds, according to Legaldictionary.net
Virginia Tea Party President Nelson Velez had been leading the petition effort against Lucas. He said the decision doesn’t leave a recourse for voters.
Velez said, “They were able to bypass all of that messy stuff like the signatures and almost 7,000 citizens in [Lucas’] district and the content of that, which included irrefutable evidence beyond a reasonable doubt of her involvement in the rioting that took place.”
On June 10, 2020 a protest erupted at the Portsmouth Confederate monument. A man was seriously injured when part of the monument fell down, and Portsmouth police filed charges against Lucas for “conspiracy to commit a felony” and “felony injuring to a monument in excess of $1,000.”
In November, the City of Portsmouth District Court dismissed the charges against Lucas.
The Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office had asked the court to dismiss the charges, arguing that by not intervening in the vandalism, officers who were on scene “either explicitly or implicitly misled [the defendants] to believe that such conduct was lawful.”
In the months following the June 2020 protest, Virginia Beach lawyer Tim Anderson began circulating the petition to remove Lucas. But when Lucas sued Anderson for $20 million, alleging defamation, Velez took over the petition. According to Wavy.com, on June 28, Lucas filed a lawsuit against former Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene and Sergeant Kevin McGee, alleging malicious prosecution and false imprisonment by both Greene and McGee.
“As a result of the intentional and reckless actions of former Police Chief Greene and Sgt. McGee, Senator Lucas was unlawfully seized, arrested, and fingerprinted in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and the Fourteenth Amendment of the Virginia Constitution, pursuant to legal process that was not supported by probable cause,” Lucas’ lawsuit states.
Additionally, Lucas’ lawsuit includes separate counts of gross negligence by both Greene and McGee, and an additional count of defamation by Greene.
Velez said that Lucas’ team has an additional case against Anderson, seeking to force him to pay their court costs for fighting the recall petition. Velez said that the defense against that case will provide another chance for arguments in favor of the petition to be heard in court. However, that case isn’t directly linked to the court’s decision to dismiss the petition.
Velez said, “The interesting thing is his argument that those legal bills should not be forwarded to him is the same argument that would present to the court as to the legal rationale that the recall was perfectly in order. So this action from the legal team of Lucas is actually forcing the attorney to present his case which also ironically would also present the case for an appeal.”
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