High court sends case back to Rappahannock
In the case of Marian Bragg vs the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors, the Virginia Supreme Court Thursday (May 17) granted the local llama farmer’s appeal of a lower Rappahannock County Circuit Court ruling surrounding enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The state’s high court, in a unanimous decision, reversed a May 2017 decision by Judge Alfred D. Swersky, a substitute in Rappahannock’s 20th Judicial Circuit, and remanded the case back for further proceedings consistent with their opinion.
Read the court’s opinion here
Bragg’s original petition, filed in 2017 in Rappahannock County Circuit Court, declared that certain actions taken by the supervisors violated Virginia’s FOIA during the closed portion of several BOS meetings in the summer and fall of 2016. Swersky denied Bragg’s petition to enforce the FOIA, finding that certain procedural aspects of the complaint had not been met.
David Konick, who represented Bragg before the Supreme Court, said today that justice has prevailed.
“Instead of admitting they made some mistakes,” Konick wrote in an email to the Rappahannock News, “three members of the Board [BOS] have unnecessarily cost Rappahannock taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars because they adamantly refuse to acknowledge they violated the Freedom of Information Act and got bad legal advice — not only about the closed meetings, but also about their litigation strategy of trying to squelch Marian Bragg’s courageous effort to hold them accountable for their contempt for the Virginia law they swore to uphold, all the while engaging in a vicious PR campaign attacking my client and me by publicly calling us ‘nuts,’ ‘quacks,’ and ‘cranks,’ castigating Supervisor Ron Frazier, and calling this lawsuit ‘frivolous. The Supreme Court in its righteous might has put all of that codswallop to rest once and for all.”
In her petition to appeal before the Supreme Court, Bragg argued: “The Trial Court’s narrow and restrictive construction of FOIA in this case is not in accord with a long line of cases decided by this [Virginia Supreme] Court that carry into effect the General Assembly’s dictate that the Freedom of Information Act be liberally construed.”
Konick argued before the Virginia Supreme Court on April 19. Local observers were surprised by the swiftness of the high court’s decision, expecting a ruling later in the summer.
In an interview Thursday, Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff explained that the merits of the case have yet to be heard in court and that Bragg’s appeal was on a procedural point.
Konick said this is the Supreme Court’s first decision in an appeal from the Circuit Court of Rappahannock County in almost a quarter of a century, since 1995.
A new court date in Rappahannock has not yet been set.