The attorney for School Board member Beth Barts (Leesburg), for whom a removal petition was entered in court last week, filed a motion in Circuit Court yesterday to dismiss the pleading against her, and for the local judges to recuse themselves from the case.
Charlie King, Barts’ attorney, argues that the pleading that the group Fight for Schools filed, accompanying the removal petition, isn’t signed by an attorney. The pleading was signed by Mike Biron on behalf of the petitioners. Biron is not a member of the Virginia State Bar.
“In Virginia you can’t sign a pleading for somebody else unless you’re an attorney. If you do, it doesn’t count. Unless he’s a lawyer, Mike Biron, who signed the pleading can’t stand up in court and argue it to the judge,” said King. “I’m just asking Fight for Schools to play by the rules.”
The recusal motion asks that Circuit Court judges recuse themselves from the case, and request a judge be designated by the state Supreme Court because the case involves local elected officials.
“Were this matter to be tried, a Loudoun judge will have to judge the credibility and weigh the testimony of local elected officials, administrative officers of the School Board, members of the Virginia State Bar, and community leaders,” King argued in the motion.
King told Loudoun Now that his concern is that the public will perceive the process as unfair given that a number of local elected officials are involved.
“I do not doubt our judges can hear this case, but I want a verdict that cannot be challenged in the court of public opinion,” King said.
While Fight for Schools declined to comment on Biron’s role in the case, Executive Director Ian Prior said he is confident in the removal effort.
“Because the substantive evidence is so overwhelming against Beth Barts, it was expected that she would try and bog down the removal effort by fights on process,” Prior said.
Fight for Schools launched the removal effort against several School Board members in response to their involvement in the private Facebook group, Anti-Racist Parents of Loudoun County. Prior alleges that a School Board member discussing public matters in a private Facebook group is a violation of rules governing conduct of elected officials.
Fight for Schools’ 24-page filing also requested that Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj be recused from the case, as she was identified a being a member of the same Facebook group.
To remove a public official from office in Virginia, a petition must collect the number of signatures of qualified voters in the district equal to 10% of the votes cast in the previous election for that office. A judge then reviews the petition and rules whether to dismiss or conduct a trial.
A hearing data has not yet been set for the case.