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Delegate Mark Levine Files Mandamus Action in Virginia Supreme Court to Force Disclosure of Alleged Misconduct Records of Fairfax District Court Judges

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From Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria/Arlington):

Delegate Mark Levine Files Mandamus Action in Virginia Supreme Court to Force Disclosure of Alleged Misconduct Records of Fairfax District Court Judges

ALEXANDRIA – Delegate Mark Levine (D-45th) has filed a mandamus action before the Virginia Supreme Court to compel the Virginia Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission (JIRC) to disclose any evidence it has in its possession relating to alleged misconduct of Fairfax District Court Judges Michael Cantrell and Mitchell I. Mutnick.

The JIRC, a judicial body created by the Virginia Constitution but appointed by the legislature, is charged with investigating judicial misconduct in Virginia. Pursuant to Virginia Code § 17.1-918(B), any member of the General Assembly, upon request, may obtain information from the JIRC regarding the alleged misconduct of any judge being considered for re-election in the up-coming General Assembly session.

In November 2021, Delegate Levine requested this information from the JIRC with respect to Fairfax Judges Michael Cantrell and Mitchell I. Mutnick. Levine was informed by the JIRC that it had “no information to report” based on the way the JIRC construed the statute. (In their cursory response to Levine, the JIRC declined to state how the JIRC interpreted their clear legal mandate or cite any precedent for disregarding it.) Levine, who sits on the House Courts of Justice Committee, then questioned Judge Cantrell at a hearing in December on judicial renominations. Judge Cantrell conceded that a JIRC complaint had indeed been filed against him, even though the JIRC had not disclosed this complaint to either Delegate Levine or the House Committee.

“The General Assembly should not be a rubberstamp for either judicial re-election or JIRC oversight,” said Delegate Levine. “Virginia is one of only two states where the legislature picks its judges, and the people of the Commonwealth deserve nothing less than the very best judges we can find, whether it be a judicial candidate new to the bench or a seasoned judge re-elected to the job. Sitting judges whom local attorneys rank among the worst should not be rehired for a job they don’t perform at the highest level.”

“Information from the JIRC is critical to the judicial re-election process. I know the JIRC has at least one complaint alleging misconduct against Judge Cantrell, because Judge Cantrell told us so.  But I don’t know whether other complaints of misconduct against these two judges exist — or even the detail or extent of the one Judge Cantrell mentioned — because the JIRC has thus far refused to comply with its clear statutory duty to disclose them to us. Virginia Law requires the JIRC to turn over, without exception, ‘any evidence it has in its possession’ relating to ‘alleged misconduct’ of judges up for re-election.”

“This lawsuit seeks to vindicate the General Assembly’s power and authority to obtain accurate information about judicial candidates seeking to return to the bench.”

The mandamus lawsuit is attached to this statement.

Delegate Levine Mandamus La… by Lowell Feld

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