Next case: Judging Chief Justice Hassell

Next case: Judging Chief Justice Hassell

Posted in the Richmond Forum

watchdog

Scottsdale, AZ

#1 Mar 22, 2009
JEFF E. SCHAPIRO TIMES-DISPATCH COLUMNIST
Published: March 8, 2009
Crowded into a windowless conference room at the John Marshall Courts Building, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Leroy Hassell and the eight judges of the Richmond Circuit Court quarreled over a proposal to scrap a Holy City tradition: separate civil and criminal judgeships.
Hassell, intent on leveling the workload of the busy court, wanted the practice dropped immediately. Most of the judges favored a phase-in.
Questions were raised about Hassell's authority to intervene. Hassell then said something that some took as a threat: As the constitutionally designated head of the judicial system, he could transfer circuit judges to other localities. Hassell prevailed.
That was Nov. 14, 2006.
On Feb. 28 -- the last day of the 2009 General Assembly session -- the nomination of one of those Richmond judges, Brad Cavedo, to a panel that polices the judiciary skidded to a halt. It was saved, but not before legislators wondered whether they'd seen the hand of Hassell at work.
"I don't govern autocratically," says Hassell. "The Supreme Court governs through consensus collectively."
A justice since 1989 and chief for six years, Hassell dismisses with a bellowing laugh suggestions that he's as much a politician as he is a judge. But these days, Hassell is summoning the skills of both as his sometimes-trying relationships with the legislature and the lower courts become more so.
Virginians caught a glimpse of this as Hassell and lawmakers publicly battled over report cards for judges that Hassell believes should be kept secret. Never mind the law does not require they remain confidential.
Though both sides jury-rigged a system under which legislators can review records while still keeping them under wraps, the judicial-evaluation process seems all but dead. The General Assembly -- if only to remind Hassell he depends on its kindness -- erased the nearly $600,000 that pays for it. "The program is gone," says Hassell. Legislators might disagree, perhaps expecting him to find the requisite funds elsewhere.
Transparency also was at the heart of a tussle last year with the Virginia State Bar, the arm of the court system that licenses lawyers. The bar was told to yank from its Web site pending disciplinary action against lawyers. The notices are now back.
Money -- or lack thereof -- is not making it easier for Hassell to work and play well with others. Because of the recession, the judicial bureaucracy, with 2,600 employees and annual budget of about $235 million, is giving up another $8 million.
In October, Hassell wrote general district court judges that hard times mean they can forget about being paid for unused vacation and sick time, the practice for many years. On retirement, this could translate to an additional $5,000.
A veteran judge in Virginia Beach, Edward Hudgins, was steamed over the new policy and signaled as much to Hassell in an e-mail reply. Hudgins, who had planned to retire Dec. 31 after 37 years, advanced his departure with a two-month vacation.
In rushing the exits, Hudgins said a substitute judge to help clear the clogged docket would cost taxpayers $10,000 -- twice his due.
And what about Hassell's?
The General Assembly doesn't act on his reappointment until 2014. But listening to legislators -- upset with Hassell over the evaluations and treatment of local judges -- the jury is still out.
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watchdog

Scottsdale, AZ

#2 Mar 22, 2009
http://www.tricities.com/tri/news/local/artic...
>
http://www.tricities.com/tri/news/local/artic...
>
D. Disciplinary Responsibilities.
1. A judge who receives reliable information indicating a substantial likelihood that another judge has committed a violation of these Canons should take appropriate action. A judge having knowledge that another judge has committed a violation of these Canons that raises a substantial question as to the other judge's fitness for office should inform the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission.
Judge Isaac St. Clair Freeman has violated the Canons of Judicial Conduct for the Commonwealth of Virginia
>
CANON 3 A judge shall perform the duties of judicial office impartially and diligently.
A judge must not independently investigate facts in a case and must consider only the evidence presented.
>
During the course of the hearing on the entry of the Final Order, the Trial Judge stated that
he had retrieved various public records of law suits that Mannix had been involved in.(Tr.
Transcript - 2/27/08 - p. 10). The public records referred to by the Trial Judge were filed in the
Court file. None of the public records were marked “filed”. Neither was the “date and time of
filing” noted on the filed documents or by whom filed. The parties were not notified of the filings
by the Trial Judge.
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watchdog

Scottsdale, AZ

#5 Mar 22, 2009
VIRGINIA:
In the Supreme Court of Virginia held at the Supreme Court Building in the City of Richmond on Friday the 6th day of February, 2009.
Patrick J. Mannix, Sr., Appellant,
against Record No. 081012
Circuit Court No. CL07-386
Marc Bernier, Appellee.
Upon a Petition for Rehearing
On consideration of the petition of the appellant to set aside the judgment rendered herein on the 22nd day of October, 2008 and grant a rehearing thereof, the prayer of the said petition is denied.
A Copy,
Teste:
Patricia L. Harrington, Clerk
By: original order signed by a deputy clerk of the Supreme Court of Virginia at the direction of the Court
Deputy Clerk
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Virginia Courts Case Information


Supreme Court of Virginia
Appeals


Case Information
Case Number: 081012 Case Type: CIVIL
Appellant: MANNIX, PATRICK J., SR. Appellee: BERNIER, MARC
Second Appellant:
Lower Court: CITY OF BRISTOL
Record Received: 05/01/08

Petition for Appeal
Petition for Appeal Received: 05/27/08
Brief in Opposition Received: 06/16/08 Received: Received:
Reply Brief Received:
Certificate of Appeal:
CSA Oral Argument:
Disposition Date: 10/22/08 Disposition: REFUSED
Petition for Rehearing Received: 11/05/08
Petition for Rehearing Date: 02/06/09 Decision: REFUSED

Appeal
Opening Brief Received:
Appendix Received:
Appellee Brief Received: Received: Received:
Reply Brief Received:
Amicus Curiae Received: Received:
Disposition Date: Disposition:
Notice of Rehearing Received:
Petition for Rehearing Received:
Petition for Rehearing Date: Decision:
Order: Opinion: Pages:
deleted by Times Dispatch

Scottsdale, AZ

#6 Mar 22, 2009
Someone just responded to the entry you subscribed to at:
News

The title of the entry is:
Next case: Judging Chief Justice Hassell

You can see the comment at the following URL:
http://www.timesdispatch.com/rtd/news/columni...

Mr. Hassell, I won't dignify him by calling him judge is a prime example
of affirmative action gone bad. Hassell a political appointed judge was
bumped over the long standing practice of seniority in choosing the chief
judge simply because he's black. Not because of any perceived ability or
knowledge of the law.

His personal life is also suspect as his son committed criminal acts while
living in Hassells home. Hassell should have known or did know. This does
not bode well for reputations beyond reproach. Someone concerned with
maintaining a clean reputation would have done the honorable thing and
resigned. Apparently Hassell doesn't care as long as he's "chief" and
has power over all other judges in the Commonwealth.

His actions since being given the Chief Justice position has been nothing
short of a judicial disaster.

Citizens of the Commonwealth deserve much better than Hassell. I would hope
the General Assembly removes him when his term is up if not before.

We don't need a "I am de judge" that thinks he unaccountable to the
people through their representatives.
watchdog

Scottsdale, AZ

#7 Mar 22, 2009
The VLW blog
The latest news and legal info from Virginia Lawyers Weekly
>
Friday, December 7, 2007
>
Chief justice’s son sentenced to 16 months
>
Leroy R. Hassell Jr. not only failed to complete the 200 hours of community service imposed as part of convictions for embezzlement, unlawful entry and trespassing, he forged documents saying that he had.
>
As a result, Henrico Circuit Judge L.A. Harris jr. sentenced him yesterday to 16 months in jail, part of it for forging community service time sheets and the rest for violating the terms of probation on the petit larceny and unlawful entry counts.
>
Those charges were reduced from burglary and grand larceny in an incident at a Henrico home that involved two other young men. He was charged later with embezzling from a Target store where he worked during the 2005 Christmas season.
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He was assigned to perform community service work at the Henrico landfill but worked only five hours there before he forged documents reporting that he had put in substantially more time.
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He turned himself on Sept. 14 after he was indicted on the forgery charges and chose to remain in jail to begin serving the expected jail time rather than post bond.
watchdog

Chicago, IL

#8 Mar 23, 2009
Subject: ATTENTION: Hon. Larry D. Willis Sr., Chairman - J I R C
February 27, 2009
IN RE: Complaint against the Honorable Isaac St. Clair Freeman, Judge
STATEMENT OF FACTS
Mannix filed a warrant-in-debt against various defendants consisting of law enforcement
officers and a local radio station including officers and employees of the radio station. The warrant-in-debt moved the General District Court for damages in the sum of $15,000.00. Each of the defendants named in the warrant-in-debt except for Bernier filed a Motion for a Bill of Particulars. Mannix responded to the Motion for the Bill of Particulars to the Defendants who filed a Motion.
The General District Court Judge considered Mannix’s response to the Motion for the Bill of
Particulars and dismissed Mannix’s case against all of the defendants except Bernier. As to Bernier, who made no appearance or requested any Motion for a Bill of Particulars, the General District Court Judge entered a default judgment.
After the default judgment was entered, Bernier employed counsel and timely perfected an
appeal to the Circuit Court. Counsel for Bernier filed a Motion with the General District Court
Judge to set aside the default judgment after noting the appeal to the Circuit Court. The General
District Court Judge denied the Motion by Bernier’s counsel.
After the appeal was filed by Bernier in the Circuit Court of the City of Bristol, Mannix filed
a Notice to Take Depositions of Bernier on October 10, 2007. Bernier thereupon filed a Motion for
a Protective Order and a Demurrer. The hearing on the Demurrer and Motion for a Protective Order
occurred on September 18, 2007, and lasted a very short period of time. The Trial Judge granted the Motion for a Protective Order so that depositions could not be taken until a ruling was made upon the Demurrer. The Judge then took the Demurrer under advisement and subsequently sustained the Demurrer of Bernier.
The only pleading in the Circuit Court appeal that was filed by Mannix was the warrant-in-debt
naming Bernier and various other individuals as defendants. This pleading was filed by
Mannix in the General District Court, not the Circuit Court. Bernier in Circuit Court filed a
Demurrer to the warrant-in-debt filed in the General District Court. The Demurrer of Bernier was
based upon Mannix’s response to the Bill of Particulars of defendants other than Bernier in the
General District Court.
During the hearing upon the Demurrer, the Trial Judge asked counsel for Bernier if he had
filed a request for costs and attorney fees in Bernier’s Demurrer.(Tr. Transcript - 9/18/07 - p. 27).
Bernier’s counsel responded that he had not done so but would be filing a motion for sanctions
asking for costs and attorney fees.
Subsequent to the Judge’s remarks about costs and attorney fees, a Motion for Sanctions was
filed by Bernier and set for hearing on October 26, 2007. Upon filing the Motion for Sanctions, an
affidavit was submitted by Bernier’s counsel that stated that Bernier had incurred $9,600.00 in
attorney fees and Court costs.
watchdog

Chicago, IL

#9 Mar 23, 2009
Mannix filed a subpoena for the bookkeeper of the law firm who signed the affidavit and a
subpoena duces tecum for the billing records for the hearing on October 26, 2007. The Trial Court
at the hearing on October 26, 2007, quashed Mannix’s subpoena duces tecum for the billing records and witness subpoena for the employee of the law firm who signed the affidavit over the objection of Mannix. Mannix, by counsel, employed just for the sanction hearing objected to the receipt of the affidavit as evidence upon the grounds that it violated the hearsay rule. The Judge responded that affidavits do not violate hearsay rules and admitted the affidavit as evidence of the sum to reimburse the law firm for attorney fees and costs.(Tr. Transcript - 10/26/07 - p. 8). At the hearing, the Judge granted Bernier’s Motion for Sanctions.
Bernier’s counsel prepared a Final Order and filed a Notice of Hearing for the entry of the
Order for February 27, 2008. A written list of objections to the entry of this Order was filed by
Mannix’s counsel itemizing each objection which stated the authority for the objection. The Trial
Judge overruled the objections and entered the Final Order on February 27, 2008.
During the course of the hearing on the entry of the Final Order, the Trial Judge stated that
he had retrieved various public records of law suits that Mannix had been involved in.(Tr.
Transcript - 2/27/08 - p. 10). The public records referred to by the Trial Judge were filed in the
Court file. None of the public records were marked “filed”. Neither was the “date and time of
filing” noted on the filed documents or by whom filed. The parties were not notified of the filings
by the Trial Judge.
Mannix, as result of the improperly filed documents, filed a Motion to Vacate and Set Aside
the Final order of February 27, 2008. The Trial Judge denied the Motion and the Order of February
27, 2008, became final.
watchdog

Chicago, IL

#10 Mar 23, 2009
The Order of February 27, 2008, requiring pre-docketing review was raised by the Trial
Court sua sponte insofar as it pertains to the Marc Bernier Show or Bernier Broadcast Services,
Inc. Neither the Marc Bernier Show or Bernier Broadcast Services, Inc. were parties to the
litigation. The Court did not have any jurisdiction to grant relief to anyone other than the party
to the litigation. Neither Mannix nor Marc Bernier requested this action and no prior notice was
given to the parties that the Trial Court intended to so act. No evidence was introduced in the
record evidencing that Mannix had abused his right to access the Trial Court’s docket and
warranting the pre-docketing review. For example, there was no evidence showing any abuse of
process or the filing of frivolous pleadings by Mannix. Because the record lacks evidence of the
due process procedural requirements, the Trial Court’s sua sponte Order, which places barriers
upon the full access of Mannix to the Court is, therefore, contrary to basic due process and
requires reversal. This case was not dismissed upon the merits but upon a Demurrer that only
considers the sufficiency of the pleading. Without a determination of the merits of the case, it was
improper and inappropriate that such pre-docketing review be obtained prior to filing any future
suit.
The defendant, Marc Bernier Show, was dismissed in the General District Court and was
therefore not a party in the Circuit Court. Bernier Broadcast Services, Inc. had never been a
party of the litigation.
Rule 3:16 provides that a new party may be added on motion of the plaintiff (not the
defendant) by Order of the Court. A new party may intervene only by leave of Court. No Order
to Intervene was filed by the Marc Bernier Show or Bernier Broadcast Services, Inc. as required
by Rule 3:14 of the Rules of Court. Neither Marc Bernier Show or Bernier Broadcast Services,
Inc. were defendants. This portion of the Final Order is plainly wrong.
The relief granted by the Court was not requested by the Marc Bernier Show or Bernier
Broadcast Services, Inc. and was therefore error and inappropriate.
That during the course of the hearing on the entry of the Final Order, the Trial Judge
stated that before reaching a decision on the case he had gone into the public records and obtained a history of the prior cases that Mannix had been involved in as a litigant.(Tr. Transcript -
2/27/08 - p. 10). The Court file did reveal that public records had been inserted in the Court file
concerning public records that designated the name of Mannix as a litigant. However, these
records were not properly authenticated and introduced into evidence nor were they properly filed
by noting and attesting the date of filing as required by Rule 3:3 of the Rules of Court and Section
17.1-129, Code of Virginia,(1950), as amended.
watchdog

Chicago, IL

#11 Mar 23, 2009
Mannix believes that these improperly filed and unauthenticated documents retrieved by
the Trial Judge may have influenced his decision in awarding sanctions of such a significant sum
for a case that would have required only a minuscule amount of time and effort to defend. It is
Mannix’s belief and opinion that these documents obtained by the Trial Judge may have tainted
the decision of the Court on the issue of sanctions as it pertains to this specific case. Since no
testimonial or documentary evidence was considered by the Court and the case was dismissed
solely upon the pleading (warrant-in-debt), it is obvious that Mannix has every reason to suspect
that these public record documents may have been influential for the Trial Judge to reach the
decision that was made.
It is unfortunate that Mannix was not in a position to require that the documents be
authenticated and properly admitted under the Rules of Evidence. Trial Judge’s should base their
decision upon the evidence heard and introduced in Court by the parties. Trial Judge’s have no
duty or obligation to search for evidence of their own in any particular case. Unlike hunting
seasons established by the Game Commission to regulate the hunting period activities for certain
species of game, a closed season always exists for Judges in reference to hunting for evidence.
The hunters of evidence should be no one other than the parties to the litigation and not the Trial
Judge who has a duty to properly admit or reject evidence that is offered for introduction. Trial
Judges should at no time become pro-se hunters of evidence because “evidence season” is never
open for Trial Judges.
Larry

Chicago, IL

#12 Mar 23, 2009

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