On May 23, 2022, the Honorable Thomas Padrick Jr. (Retired, Virginia Beach Circuit Court) dismissed the petitions to remove Brenda Sheridan and Atoosa Reaser from the Loudoun County School Board.
On November 18, 2021, petitions drafted by Fight for Schools were filed requesting the Loudoun County Circuit Court to recall Algonkian District School Board members Atoosa Reaser and Sterling District School Board member Brenda Sheridan. (At the time the petitions were filed, Sheridan was chair and Reaser was vice chair of the school board.) Upon filing of the petition, the Loudoun County Circuit Court issued a ruling to show cause to both Ms. Reaser and Ms. Sheridan. Pursuant to the code section at issue, a circuit court may remove an elected office from office “for neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance of duties [when the same] has a material adverse effect upon the conduct of the office.”
On January 5, 2022, Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge Jeanette Irby presided over several preliminary motions in the Sheridan case. Fight for Schools filed a Motion to Disqualify Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj based on her membership in a Facebook group “Anti-Racist Parents of Loudoun County,” re-tweeting articles and letters to the editors mentioning Fight for Schools, and Biberaj being the target of efforts to recall her as the Commonwealth’s Attorney. After a full day of testimony, Judge Irby took the matters under advisement and a trial was set to begin March 21, 2022. A ruling on the Motion to Quash the petitions, Motions to Intervene and the Motion to Disqualify the Commonwealth’s Attorney was scheduled for February 23, 2022.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Biberaj objected to each of the Motions to Disqualify the Commonwealth’s Attorney filed in the Atoosa and Sheridan cases on the grounds that the allegations asserted by Fight for School were unsupported by facts, thus unfounded. In an abundance of caution, Biberaj filed a Motion for the Appointment of a Special Prosecutor in the Reaser case. Biberaj represented that Reaser, as an active member of the Loudoun County Bar Association, participates in local bar activities alongside the
Commonwealth’s Attorney and her assistants and is expected to continue doing so during and after the litigation of these matters. Thus, Biberaj requested that a special prosecutor be designated in the Reaser case to avoid an appearance of bias.
To date two groups, Fight for Schools, and the Loudoun Chapter of the NAACP, filed motions to intervene in the litigation. On February 1, 2022, Judge Irby recused herself and then on February 14, 2022, the entire judiciary of the Loudoun County Circuit Court recused itself from these cases. The Supreme Court of Virginia designated the Honorable Judge Padrick (retired) to preside over these proceedings.
Judge Padrick granted Commonwealth Attorney Biberaj’ s Motion for Special Prosecutor in the Sheridan case and appointed the Honorable Joseph Platania, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Charlottesville, Virginia.
On March 23, 2022, Judge Padrick heard the Motion to Disqualify as filed by Fight for Schools. Biberaj objected to the motion as Fight for Schools was not a party to the proceedings and did not have standing to make a motion or argue any matter before this court; thus, the court should not entertain the Motion to Disqualify the Commonwealth’s Attorney. Judge Padrick heard the arguments of the parties, the Commonwealth and Ms. Reaser and Ms. Sheridan, and the proposed intervenors, Fight for Schools, and the Loudoun Chapter of the NAACP. Biberaj argued that the Virginia Rules of Court and the Virginia State Bar Rules of Ethics impose upon prosecutors certain duties, specifically that the Commonwealth’s Attorney is required to be impartial and seek justice, not convictions. That the parties and the facts of the case did not present a conflict that warranted recusal. Judge Padrick referenced that Judge Irby recused Biberaj in the Beth Barts case, not due to bias but based on the potential of appearance of a conflict. Further stating that since Mr. Platania was the special prosecutor in the Reaser case, it would be prudent to have him so appointed in the Sheridan case as the petitions cited the same allegations.
Fight for Schools and the NAACP argued their respective positions on their motions to intervene. Ms. Boyce, counsel for Ms. Reaser and Ms. Sheridan, and Mr. Platania argued that case law did not support the granting of the motion to intervene as the code provides for the Commonwealth’s Attorney to prosecute the case.
Judge Padrick reviewed the statutes and case law and denied the Motions to Intervene. Thereafter, Ms. Boyce requested that the judge consider the Motions to Quash filed in each case and argued that the petitions were defective in that they lacked specificity of facts to allege a violation. Mr. Platania represented to the court the duties of a prosecutor are to seek justice, and to weigh the evidence in determining how to proceed. Mr.
Platania motioned the court to dismiss and reported that he reviewed the petitions and found them to be fatally defective – there were no facts alleged that could be the reasonable basis to establish neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance of duties.”
Judge Padrick granted the motion to dismiss and terminated the cases.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Biberaj stated “we respect the decisions of the court and appreciate the time and dedication given to these matters by Judge Padrick. We hope that with the conclusion of these cases, our community can be given the opportunity to be united in its goals and values. We need to find ways to be less divisive. We hope that all of our elected officials are supported and encouraged to best serve our community.”
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