No Judge who is corrupt, who condones corruption in others, can possibly remains on the Bench.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Judicial hot potato: Is Judge Finch fried?

Judicial hot potato: Is Judge Finch fried?
By: Barbara Hollingsworth
Examiner Columnist
February 2, 2009

A rare pitchfork rebellion has derailed the reappointment of longtime Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Gaylord Finch, one of just two judges among 60 incumbents who were not reappointed to new terms by the Virginia General Assembly.

Finch supporters say that complaints lodged against him are just sour grapes by bitter people who lost in court. Of course, the corollary is that beneficiaries of a rigged process seldom complain.

It takes a pretty powerful sense of grievance to drive down to Richmond and face public ostracism for criticizing a veteran judge. The inherent difficulties tend to weed out most of the frivolous accusations.

And the accusations made by litigants who stepped up to condemn the former Domestic and Juvenile Relations Court judge at two recent public hearings were anything but frivolous.

They told members of the Courts of Justice Committee that Judge Finch did not follow basic legal procedures or consider their cases with due diligence, violated their constitutional rights on occasion and even failed to obey state statutes.

Taken as a whole, the accusations go far beyond individual angst over adverse rulings and speak directly to arrogant and injudicious behavior on the bench.

Elected legislators appoint judges in Virginia and can block reappointment of those who don’t measure up. However, this legislative check on the judiciary is seldom exercised. Most part-time legislators are full-time attorneys who have little incentive to anger judges they may someday have to appear before.

For a veteran judge like Finch, the General Assembly holds hearings – described by one observer as a “five-minute lovefest” - before certifying the incumbent as qualified. After a simultaneous majority vote in both houses, the judge is approved for another term. But the Northern Virginia delegation held back Judge Finch’s certification after hearing from angry citizens on December 11 and January 10:

* Judge Finch was recorded telling committee members that he was assigned to Pascale v. Fairfax County School Board - a controversial school redistricting case – just “ten minutes” before trial although court records show that he was assigned the landmark case on June 12, 2008 – a full three weeks earlier.

Angry parents claim that Judge Finch “rubber-stamped the decision of the School Board...without providing any reasoning or analysis for his decision” – as required by state law.

* An Arlington man says Judge Finch denied him due process by not allowing him to present evidence to the jury during his trial on trespassing charges, which were later dropped on appeal, for attending a 2005 party at his disabled son’s Fairfax County school. All of the defendant’s motions were mysteriously missing from the official record of action, even though they appear in a list sent to the appellate court.

* A Herndon man says Judge Finch ordered him to hand over more than $60,000 to a former Fairfax Bar Association president acting as a guardian-ad-litem and refused to issue a final ruling in his case for more than three years, instead of the required 21 days, forcing him to pay more than $200,000 in legal fees. After complaining to the chief judge, his case was finally settled on January 8.

* Court records also show that in 2007, Judge Finch took a six-year-old girl away from her single working mother and four siblings and awarded custody to the first grader’s father - "contingent" on his live-in girlfriend, who had previous drug and DUI convictions, passing random drug testing.

When another former litigant requested a copy of Finch’s Judicial Performance Evaluation, the state’s Division of Legislative Services told her via email: “Judge Finch is not one of the judges for whom the legislature received a JPE this year.” So on what basis are committee members considering his reappointment?

Citizens deserve to know before they’re subjected to Judge Finch’s questionable judgment for another eight years.

Barbara F. Hollingsworth is The Washington Examiner’s local opinion editor. She can be reached by email at:

No comments: