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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pitchfork Rebellion Letter to Members of the VA General Assembly

February 9, 2009

To Whom It May Concern:

This letter is to convey our serious concerns about the process by which judges are selected in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the condition of our judiciary.

We are a group of citizens from across the Commonwealth of Virginia. We have come together to oppose the re-appointment of Judge Finch to the Fairfax County Circuit Court and Judge Hauler to the Chesterfield County Circuit Court.

As dutiful citizens, we have attempted to follow this process as closely as possible as well as actively and meaningfully participate in the process. However, we have been, for the most part, shut out of the process and deliberately silenced.

We decry Judge Hauler’s attempt to quell public opposition to his re-appointment by means of a $5.35M lawsuit against his former clerk and his recent written threat to sue his neighbor Brenda Stewart, who has also spoken out publically against him.

We are gravely concerned that Judge Finch apparently lied to the Courts of Justice Committee during his second judicial interview on January 10, 2009 when asked about the landmark school re-districting case Pascale et al vs. Fairfax County School Board.

When questioned about this important case by Senator Cuccinelli, Judge Finch said he was unprepared to hear the case at trial. However, Judge Finch told the legislators the reason was that he had been assigned to the case only ten minutes before trial as an excuse. However, the official record of action in this case clearly shows Judge Finch was assigned the case three full weeks before trial and had ample opportunity to review the case before trial.

We’ve enclosed an audio CD of Judge Finch’s second judicial interview in which you will hear judge Finch make that assertion as well as the official record of action.

We applaud Senator Martin, Senator Cuccinelli and Senator Marsden for taking the citizen complaints against these judges seriously and acting responsibly.

We denounce Delegate Vivian Watts, who chaired the second judicial interview of Judge Finch, for refusing to allow a private citizen to read the one page statement of an indigent man named Wesley Smith, who alleged that Judge Finch violated his Constitutional rights and deprived him of all the elements of a fair trial. When the private citizen persisted and again asked to speak, Delegate Watts only allowed her 30 seconds to read the statement, interrupted her several times and did not let her finish.

We are very disappointed the local Chesterfield delegation completely ignored Judge Hauler’s serious problems on and off the bench and decided in favor of politics as usual and endorsed Judge Hauler. This is an abject dereliction of duty and a serious breach of the public trust. We hope that when additional information about Judge Hauler’s record becomes available this week, that the Chesterfield delegation will re-examine their position and vote responsibly in the full committee vote.

We believe a strong and independent judiciary is indispensible to the rule of law. We are governed by the principle that all should be treated fairly in the courtroom. We adhere to the great philosopher Plato’s dictum that justice is giving every man his due. The absence of justice is the unenlightened darkness of a cave.

We are contacting you today to petition that you not re-reappoint Judge Finch and Judge Hauler to judicial office.

While the Pitchfork Rebellion of 1685 was unsuccessful, we are better organized and have a very powerful weapon: the truth. Ours is a peaceful struggle to ensure that our jurists obey the laws of the Commonwealth, uphold and defend the Constitution and firmly adhere to the Rules of the Virginia Supreme Court. And if our judges fail to do so, our elected officials ought to hold them accountable.

The pitchfork in the famous 1930 American painting “American Gothic” represents hard work. We represent hardworking ordinary Virginians from across the state who rely on our judiciary and who, frankly, deserve better than Judge Finch and Judge Hauler.

The pitchfork itself is often used to remove manure from the barns, turn over the soil and uproot weeds from the earth. Today, we call upon you, our elected officials, to clean up the judiciary and weed out bad judges: exercise your legislative mandate by pitching Judge Finch and Judge Hauler.

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