Attorneys on behalf of former Gloucester County Board of Supervisors member Teresa Altemus and current supervisors Bobby Crewe, Michelle Ressler and Gregory Woodard have filed a brief in Virginia’s Supreme Court arguing that the high court should uphold the Gloucester Circuit Court’s decision ordering that 40 Gloucester residents be sanctioned $80,000 for circulating petitions to remove the four from office.
The brief follows an earlier brief filed in the Supreme Court on behalf of the 40 residents. L. Steven Emmert, appellate attorney on behalf of the 40 residents, wrote that the four supervisors are not entitled to an award of costs and fees because the nonsuit was not a dismissal in their favor. He also stated that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to enter the sanctions order, since it was entered more than 21 days after the nonsuit.
Other organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia, the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression filed briefs in the case.
The latest brief, filed on June 21, 2010 on behalf of the supervisors, states, "In their briefs and elsewhere, Petitioners and their allies seek to portray Petitioners as heroes of democracy, citizens who are being unfairly punished simply for exercising their constitutional right to petition the government."
Speaking of the 40 residents, the brief later states that "the Petitioners are not babes-in-the-woods. Indeed, some of them are politically quite sophisticated and/or have obvious political axes to grind.Though some may have been more culpable than others, they all acted as part of a larger plan to abuse the judicial system for political ends and to thwart the democratic process."
It continued, "Petitioners should be held accountable not only for their wrongs to the Four Supervisors, but also for their wrongs to the community of Gloucester and for their misuse and abuse of the judicial system. The sanctions should be affirmed."
The brief later cited a number of reasons why the sanctions should be upheld including the reasoning that:
—The petitioners signed the papers that initiated the removal proceedings and are subject to sanctions;
—The trial court did not abuse its discretion in imposing sanctions on the petitioners;
—The petition clause does not give anyone a right to initiate frivolous litigation;
—The petitioners have no standing to complain about the award of fees;
—The trial court did not lose jurisdiction to enter the sanctions order, and;
—There is no merit in the arguments of petitioners’ Amici.
The case is expected to be argued before the Virginia Supreme Court in the fall.