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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Pitchfork Rebellion Beginnings

The following article appeared in the DC Examiner on January 14, 2009

Pitchfork rebellion against Judge Finch
POSTED January 14, 2009 12:05 AM
A lot of Virginians are coming out of the woodwork and demanding that the General Assembly refuse to reappoint Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Gaylord Finch. The complaints are coming close to critical mass. Virginia and South Carolina are the only two states in which legislators appoint judges. Partisan fighting between the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled state Senate delayed many nominations last session. But Virginia lawmakers also have the power to deny a judge reappointment if he/she fails to live up to expectations. A bill submitted by former delegate and current state attorney general Robert McDonnell created a panel to review judges’ performance of circuit, general district, and juvenile and domestic relations judges. It went into effect for the first time this year. Legislators are supposed to rate judges by their record on the bench instead of just rubber-stamping them for another term.And they’re getting an earful from irate defendants who feel their rights were violated by Judge Finch. One man claims Judge Finch refused to enter a final order in his case – for four years !– leaving him in a legal no-man’s-land. Another reportedly told the FBI that Finch routinely hears criminal cases in which the defense attorney is his golfing buddy and a frequent houseguest.A former Fairfax County resident told members of the Courts of Justice Committee that Finch ridiculed and mocked her when she appeared pro se in his courtroom in an attempt to regain custody of her young daughter. Another man complained that in 2005, Judge Finch systematically denied him his constitutional rights when he was charged with trespassing for attending a school party for his Down’s syndrome son at this ex-wife’s invitation. He claims that Judge Finch refused to rule on his motions to dismiss, wouldn’t let the proceedings be recorded by the court reporter present, or even let the defendant present evidence or rebut witnesses.Finch is also accused of holding ex parte hearings on a custody and child support case and ordering the wrongful imprisonment of a man on false child abuse charges that were later overturned. And the Fairfax County Coalition of Advocates for Public Schools blasted Judge Finch’s handling of the controversial western boundary redistricting case.Any one of these complaints should give legislators pause as they reconsider reappointing Judge Finch. Taken together, however, they paint such a disturbing picture of judicial arrogance and disdain for the constitutional rights of citizens as to render him unfit for the bench.

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