Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Virginia
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court ordering the removal of Herbert Townes and David Silvestro from the City of Hopewell Electoral Board, holding that the circuit court erred by setting the burden of proof as a preponderance of the evidence and abused its discretion by excluding certain evidence. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) because removal proceedings are quasi-criminal in nature due to the high penalty they impose on a removed official, the correct burden of proof is clear and convincing evidence, a higher standard than that applied by the circuit court in this case; (2) the circuit court did not improperly allow the Commonwealth to expand its grounds for removal beyond the grounds pled in its petition for removal; and (3) the circuit court abused its discretion when it excluded certain defense evidence at trial. View "Townes v. Virginia State Board of Elections" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing a petition to remove an elected officer, holding that the petition failed to comply with the requirement set forth in Va. Code 24.2-233 and -235 that the signatures of petitioners who are registered voters equal to ten percent of the votes case in the last election be made under penalty of perjury. The circuit court dismissed the petition at issue on the grounds that the petition was not signed under penalty of perjury by a number of registered voters equal to ten percent of the votes cast in the prior election for that office. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, reading sections 24.2-233 and -235 together, the text of the statutes requires that the signatures of ten percent of the registered voters on a petition for the removal of an elected officer must be signed under penalty of perjury. View "Commonwealth v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought an action against the Virginia State Board of Elections, the Department of Elections, and various officers in their official capacities, alleging that eleven districts were unconstitutional and seeking to enjoin the use of the current district map in future elections. Subpoenas duces tecum were served upon several members of the General Assembly (the Virginia Senators) and the Division of Legislative Services (DLS) demanding production of certain documents and communications. Claiming legislative privilege, the Virginia Senators and DLS (collectively, Appellants) filed motions to quash. The circuit court denied the motion to quash, holding that the legislative privilege does not extend to DLS or to documents and communications between members of the General Assembly and consultants, DLS, or other third parties. When Appellants refused to comply with the production order, the court held Appellants in civil contempt. The Supreme Court vacated the portion of the order holding Appellants in contempt, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion by holding Appellants in contempt because the material sought in the subpoenas duces tecum were protected by the legislative privilege. View "Edwards v. Vesilind" on Justia Law