Why Arlington Judges Can Get Away With What They Do

28 Jul

Compared to other counties like Fairfax, Arlington Courts are very small, with only three circuit judges and two family court judge, one circuit court judge is the chief judge.   The small size makes for an incestuous relationship between the members of the Arlington Bar and the few judges before which their members regularly appear.

Got a bad judge?  Too bad.  Not much you can do about it.   Judges are immune from being sued.   You can file a complaint with the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission but you will soon find that was a waste of time.   They rarely, if ever, discipline any judges.  [See, if you can find any opinions of judges being disciplined in Virginia…]

A case is going to the US Supreme Court on this very topic.   It seems a family court judge in Detroit, had sex with a witness for one of the parties.   Wayne County Circuit Judge Wade McCree testified during his misconduct hearing about his affair with Geniene La’Shay Mott who appeared as a witness in a child-support case in his court.  (Hear her interview here)  Judge McCree ultimately ruled against the opposing party.  When the losing party attempted to sue in federal court, the court of appeals dismissed citing judicial immunity.

Up until now, the high court essentially has held that anything a judge does in his or her capacity as a judge is covered under the immunity clause. But if, for example, a judge unlawfully fires someone, that’s not covered because because hiring or firing is not considered a judicial activity.

Only a handful of judges nationwide have been successfully sued for civil rights violations. One such case involved a Tennessee juvenile court judge who was accused of violating the civil rights of three women by sexually assaulting them and threatening to take their kids away if they didn’t give in. In 1996, the 6th Circuit denied him judicial immunity from civil liability.

In Arlington, some judges have regularly violated the US Constitution, placing children in psychiatric facilities at Medicaid expense without required due process, denying foster care children their own counsel, holding trials where the parties could not see the witnesses on the witness stand, violating the freedom of speech of litigants without due process, and prohibiting litigants from freely consulting with legal counsel, but nothing happens to these judges.

The outcome of the McCree case could have significant impact on Arlington County judiciary, allowing litigants to sue some of very bad behavior of some if the family court and circuit court judges.

Read more: Detroit Free Press