Court Orders Gloucester Petitioners to Pay $80,000 Towards County Legal Fees for Failed Removal Effort

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Substitute Circuit Court Judge Westbrook J. Parker, in the removal petition cases filed against four members of the Gloucester County Board of Supervisor members, ruled yesterday that the 40 petitioners must pay sanctions of $2000 each, a result that vindicates the Supervisors, said James E. Cornwell, Jr., a local government lawyer with the firm of Sands Anderson Marks & Miller who was retained by two of the defendants.

Substitute Circuit Court Judge Westbrook J. Parker, in the removal petition cases filed against four members of the Gloucester County Board of Supervisor members, ruled yesterday that the 40 petitioners must pay sanctions of $2000 each, a result that vindicates the Supervisors, said James E. Cornwell, Jr., a local government lawyer with the firm of Sands Anderson Marks & Miller who was retained by two of the defendants.

The Court ordered Gloucester County to pay the Supervisors' legal fees in the defense of the removal petitions and allows the funds recovered under the sanctions to be used to reimburse the County, representing a substantial portion of the legal fees for the defense. Cornwell represented Supervisors against whom criminal and removal petitions had been filed.

"This arduous process, where the charges filed in the summer were dismissed last month with prejudice and now the removal petitions are dismissed, has put a severe burden on these individuals and Gloucester County," remarked Cornwell, after the verdict. "We are obviously gratified that the Court found in their favor. By his award of sanctions, we feel that the Circuit Court Judge sent a strong message that misuse of the judicial process for political reasons will not be tolerated."

Daniel M. Siegel, chair of the Local Government practice group at the law firm, added, "We feel honored to have been called on to defend innocent elected officials, who have been unjustly harassed by a disgruntled group trying to use the legal system to circumvent the election process."

Calling the actions of the criminal charges and petitions for removal, attempts to thwart the democratic process, Judge Parker said he had "never seen more misuse of the judicial system." The members of the Board of Supervisors had been charged by a special grand jury of misconduct in office and tied up in legal procedures for about six months.

"We think that the results certainly bear out the conclusion that these duly-elected county officials were within their responsibilities when they made decisions about staff responsibilities," noted Cornwell. "We hope that this decision puts the matter to rest and that our clients can now get back to the job of serving the citizens who elected them."

Cornwell, who manages the law firm's Blacksburg office, is a well-known local government attorney. He has served a number of localities and authorities in his career as county and town attorney or special counsel. The Gloucester assignment came because the Board was familiar with the firm's Local Government practice group through earlier work with the county.

Actions related to this release:
Commonwealth of Virginia vs. Gregory Woodard - Docket # CR08-375 thru CR08-377
Commonwealth of Virginia vs. Robert Crewe - Docket # CR08-385 thru CR08-388

Founded more than 150 years ago, Sands Anderson has 76 lawyers practicing among its offices in Richmond, Blacksburg, Fredericksburg and McLean, Virginia, and the Research Triangle of North Carolina. In 2008, it was ranked 9th in the Virginia Lawyers Weekly annual listing of the state's largest law firms. Sands Anderson provides a full range of legal services to corporations and businesses, healthcare providers, financial institutions, state and local governments, the insurance industry and individuals. For more information, visit http://www.SandsAnderson.com

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