Virginia Supreme Court hears case of ‘Gloucester 40’

by Quinton Sheppard - Posted on Jan 12, 2011 - 04:26 PM

Six members of the "Gloucester 40," as well as three Gloucester County supervisors and one former supervisor, attended oral arguments that were presented Tuesday to a six-member panel of the Virginia Supreme Court. A decision in the case is expected in about seven weeks, according to L. Steven Emmert, the attorney representing the 40 residents.

Members of the "Gloucester 40" have appealed to Virginia’s high court $80,000 in sanctions levied against them, stemming from organizing petitions to oust four Gloucester County supervisors from office in 2008.

The removal effort petitioners pursued followed a five-month special grand jury investigation that returned 14 misdemeanor indictments against former supervisor Teresa Altemus and current supervisors Bobby Crewe, Michelle Ressler and Gregory Woodard on July 8, 2008.

The indictments charged malfeasance, misfeasance, and misuse of office in connection with the four supervisors’ actions during and immediately following a controversial board of supervisors’ meeting on Jan. 2-3, 2008. Charges were later dropped against the four members of the governing body.

The petitions, which collected over 6,000 signatures, were non-suited on motion by a special prosecutor during a brief hearing that November for being flawed procedurally and substantively.

Each of the 40 residents was sanctioned $2,000 by visiting Circuit Court judge Westbrook Parker, who said at the time that the petitioners’ actions were one of the worst abuses of the judicial system he had seen and stated, "This should not happen in America."

On Tuesday, each side had 15 minutes to argue its side of the case before the panel of judges.