A meeting that took place Tuesday night spiraled towards the end when two retired judges were up for review in a joint meeting of the Senate and House Courts Committees.
Two retired judges who still work in courts across Virginia helping with caseloads were called before the committee for review over whether they should be able to continue their job.
Sen. Chap Petersen (D), a member of the committee, stepped down from his seat to speak as a citizen opposing Judge Joseph Ellis.
The quick recap is that Ellis sanctioned Petersen, a practicing attorney, $54,000 for a “speculative” lawsuit.
Petersen spoke strongly against the judge in front of his colleagues along with a woman who was briefly detained in court by Ellis for contempt during a divorce proceeding.
Petersen described the circumstances around his sanction in painstaking detail. “One of the things that shocked me is how a substitute, in this case a retired judge, could come in and just ignore what the existing orders were in the case and have no accountability, none.”
Petersen recused himself from this individual vote and is appealing his sanction from Ellis.
“In Mr. Petersen’s case, I will say, that the facts he articulated for you, I have a different recollection of what transpired,” Ellis said to the legislators after Petersen spoke against him. “Is he angry at me? Absolutely, I could tell that when he was standing in the back of the courtroom and shouting ‘I’m going to appeal.’”
The only other public speaker, Mary White, spoke in favor of Ellis and said Petersen should be ashamed for attempting to remove the credentials of a judge he disagreed with. “To know somebody can use their position this way is absolutely reprehensible,” she said. “This venue should not be used for a personal vendetta.”
Sen. Joe Morrissey (D) tried to dig in on the case of the public speaker who Ellis placed in contempt by asking several questions about his decisions in the case.
House Courts Chair Les Adams (R) urged Morrissey to stop relitigating her case in front of the committee. Senate Courts Chair Creigh Deeds (D) also pushed back against the questions from Morrissey, “You are relitigating the case.”
The committee members accepted several documents and other materials from Ellis as he worked to defend himself.
He also didn’t shy away from pointing out that while they might have the ability to take his job from him, that does not mean they will receive preferential treatment in his courtroom. “I don’t care if they’re a pauper, or a prince, or a politician, everybody is treated the same,” Ellis said.
A second retired judge was also called before the committee but the members could not determine why he was summoned. There was a request from one member of the committee according to Adams, but no one brought forth a complaint.
The retired judge began to describe why believed that Sen. Tommy Norment (R) might have a problem with him, but Norment wasn’t present. A few of the committee members then praised the judge and the meeting ended without any questions for him or an indication about why he was requested to appear.
**You can watch the full video of the meeting here. (Start at 6:40 pm)
Virginia Scope is an independent news publication that is funded largely by donations and subscribers. As local newsrooms are losing writers each day, we are trying to fill the void to ensure that the public is informed and that leaders are held accountable for their actions. Please consider becoming a paid subscriber to our newsletter or making a donation through Paypal below so we can continue to work in Virginia.