Tuesday, March 27, 2001
Million Libel Lawsuit Against Clerk For Criticizing A Judge In
responds to suit, Gives reasons for opposing judge
BY ALAN COOPER
Chesterfield County Circuit Court Clerk Judy L. Worthington
said yesterday her only motives in opposing the reappointment of Circuit
Judge Timothy J. Hauler were to provide better judges and protect the interests
of county residents.
Worthington was responding to a $5.35 million libel lawsuit
filed against her by [Judge] Hauler. The lawsuit
in Charlottesville Circuit Court is based largely on a Dec. 29 letter
Worthington wrote to the chairmen of the General Assembly's Courts of
Justice Committees, eight additional legislators and one other
In yesterday's formal response, Worthington said she wrote the letter
only to correct "false and misleading impressions left by anonymous
sources" in an article in Virginia Lawyers Weekly in mid-December.
The article attributed her opposition to [Judge]
Hauler to a dispute over who should be chief judge of the
circuit. Before that article, Worthington
said, she limited her opposition to Hauler to private meetings with
Richmond area legislators or their staffs. She also attempted to confine initial
circulation of the Dec. 29 letter to those she believed might have seen the
article in the Virginia Lawyers Weekly. ....
The letter described the court as "a dysfunctional
organization that has done little to address the needs of the public or
administrative issues that beg for attention." She wrote that [Judge]
Hauler is "impatient, vindictive, ill-tempered, ill-mannered and
publicly profane" and challenged his record as a judge on several fronts.
The executive committee of the bar association endorsed
[Judge] Hauler for reappointment before and after Worthington's
letter. The legislature reappointed him to a second eight-year term without a
County voters elected Worthington to a second eight-year
term as court clerk in November 1999.
[Judge] Hauler's suit alleges,
"Ms. Worthington formulated and carried out a plan to deny Judge Hauler
re-election to the Twelfth Judicial Circuit because of decisions made by
Judge Hauler and actions taken in his official capacity that displeased Ms.
The letter was the culmination of that plan and "was
motivated by Ms. Worthington's personal spite, ill-will and malice toward
Judge Hauler," his attorney, Charlottesville lawyer Thomas E. Albro, said in the
suit. In her response, Worthington
acknowledged she was disappointed about the hiring and title of the
person designated as the court administrator. ....
Worthington denied misusing a computerized legal research
service to research [Judge] Hauler's record in the appellate
courts and defended her assertion that Hauler is the most lenient of
Chesterfield judges in
defendants. She repeated her assertion
that Hauler is in part responsible for the lack of speed with which the
court handles criminal cases and contended her criticism of Hauler's work
habits is based on his frequent absence from the courthouse in the
This is just the type of lawsuits the
judiciary advises trial judges to avoid. It embarrasses the judicial
system as a whole, and as I have said, the judicial system, at all costs,
tries to avoid embarrassment. A certain California judge sued because the
defendant asserted that the judge consulted a crystal ball before
rendering his decisions. This allegation hit, as I recall, 20/20, and the judge
sued over the bad publicity that discredited his name. The appellate court, in
effect, said in its published opinion, that those who live in glass houses
should not throw stones, and that this was a prime example of why judges should
have thick skins and take it on the chin, before they affirmed throwing out the
Here, we have political infighting between a judge and
the Clerk of the Courthouse. There is no way the judicial system can gain
anything beneficial to the sanctity of their judicial position of rising
above the riff-raff. I would think that the judicial system would like to see
this judge's lawsuit dismissed as quickly and quietly as possible, lest
they all become a laughing stock of a judicial system out of control in bringing
lawsuits, and in this case, over childish and petty issues. Here, this judge
places himself in a position of being placed on the witness stand before jurors
and being asked extremely embarrassing questions he will not want to answer
before the jury.
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"..it does not require a majority to prevail,
but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's
minds.." - Samuel Adams
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of
evil to one who is
striking at the
-- Henry David Thoreau