Hot air closes court

news-alb-circuit-courtAlbemarle Circuit Court closed for business today because the temperature yesterday "constituted a threat to health," according to a notice posted on the courthouse door signed by Judge Cheryl Higgins. The judge also noted that the county said there was no problem with the air conditioning and that no other rooms were available in the County Office Building.

"There's some sort of malfunction in the temperature setting," says Albemarle spokeswoman Lee Catlin. Because the number of bodies occupying the courtroom can heat things up, facilities is looking at the preset temp, says Catlin.

The cancellation of court means that the Western Albemarle student accused of threatening classmates on Facebook, Patrick Crider, did not get his day in court again. A week ago, Judge Higgins had him play the violin to determine whether she had a conflict of interest, and Crider was rescheduled to enter a plea today before Judge Paul Peatross.

Also on today's docket: accused Mill-Creek-HOA embezzler Kevin O'Connor. Those cases have not been rescheduled, according to Judge Higgins' assistant, Denise Hodges.


Gasbag, I'm obviously not keeping track so I'll take your word for it! ;)

Mark, I'm not whistling Dixie past the graveyard here. You can cast all the doubt all you want.

But all I did was state an opinion, just as you did. Instead of saying, "she's one of the brightest and most thorough" judges, I said something less positive. But certainly it wasn't inflammatory or slanderous or libelous. It was an opinion stated by many within the Virginia bar and by those that who are not members of the bar but are subject to this judge's whim, I mean "rulings".

It's not that big a deal. My opinion was presented in a glib fashion and used the term "kangaroo court".

But I think it displays a hyper-sensitivity towards criticism of this judge and I can only wonder why that would be.

Gosh, if hot air closes government buildings, Congress should have ceased to exist long ago.

how hot was it, exactly?

This judge sounds like a prima donna.

seriously, boo! I was in the courthouse yesterday and it wasn't that hot. Maybe she had a hot date or something.

I'd go take a look at how often she's overturned then and leave it at that.

But I agree your comments shouldn't be deleted if that's all they were.

How old is she? Maybe she is having hot flashes!

Seriously, is the judge who will be on the bench for Frat Boy's trial?

Deleted by moderator.

A week ago, Judge Higgins had him play the violin to determine whether she had a conflict of interest,
What does this mean?

The judge also noted that the county said there was no problem with the air conditioning.

Ummmmm, she said there was NO problem...then what was the problem?

on the other hand, my first comment remains! So maybe I have to couch everything in words like, "sounds like" or "word on the street is" or "some people say"......

Noted --

She wasn't talking to you.

So go to Walmart and buy some fans!

quote: "She could very easily have arranged to have her entire county docket safely heard in the air conditioned comfort of the Charlottesville Circuit Court."

Unless things have changed recently, the city courtroom is a turkey shoot too. I worked in the building for decades. It was always too hot or cold.

We even had one sheriff come along who forbid deputies from wearing their jackets in the courtroom no matter what the temperature was. Ture story. Thankfully, he wasn't sheriff but a few years.

Like local lawyer, I'm a bit concerned about the judge making a factual finding that the temperature inside the courtroom "constituted a threat to health". I can easily believe cvllelaw's description of the conditions as "really not pleasant at all", but I'm more than a little skeptical about whether the judge had any honest basis for calling the conditions a "threat to health".

But I'm much more concerned about the judge cancelling court and indefinitely continuing all Wednesday's scheduled cases when there was a much more practical and obvious solution available: Charlottesville Circuit Court was sitting empty most of Wednesday, and the city court is located not five hundred feet from the county court down High Street. Did the judge not think to check whether alternate space was available in the City Circuit Court?

Assuming the judge is as bright as Mark says, then she certainly knows that there is usually at least one vacant courtroom in Charlottesville Circuit Court. If the judge had bothered to call the city court, she would have learned that both the main city courtroom and the hallway conference room were scheduled to be vacant almost all day on Wednesday. She could very easily have arranged to have her entire county docket safely heard in the air conditioned comfort of the Charlottesville Circuit Court.

The question then becomes where does the judge get off inconveniencing all the people who had cases set to be heard on Wednesday? What about the witnesses and family members who took time off from work to be present for the cases of their loved ones, or who drove in from out of town? How many people showed up for court on Wednesday afternoon, only to find the courthouse locked up because it was just too hot? Did the judge even consider all those people when she decided to have her dramatic little power struggle with the bureaucrats in the County Office building?

Bad form, your honor. I am disappointed in you.

not sure, but that might have been my first ever "deleted by moderator"s.....

I used no strong language but state an opinion that is shared by many and that is contrary to "Mark"'s.

I guess some opinions are ok and others are not? The hook obviously can do what it wants but Judge Higgins is a public figure appointed by elected representatives. Surely contrary opinions regarding her tenure as a public servant should not be squelched by the media? Would the media be presenting an unbiased picture by only showing one side?

So sorry to hear Judge Cheryl wasn't comfy on her throne.

Pretty damn hot.

Cheryl you missed our tee time yesterday we went to old trail not wintergreen. We'll see you today right?

@Wildflower: Higgins is one of the most thorough and brightest circuit court judges in the commonwealth. She's also extremely tough on crime. But the answer is no, she's in the county. He'll be tried in the city.

@yepper: Shared by many within the Virginia Bar? Doubtful.

If I recall correctly, during the Scopes monkey trial, stifling courthouse heat cause the judge to hold most of the trial outdoors. If that could be done then, during a truly contentious trial with hordes of spectators and world-wide publicity, why couldn't Judge Higgins do the same thing with her modest docket of routine hearings? It was beautiful yesterday.

Judging by tonight's story on the news, I think that the purpose of Judge Higgins' action was to finally get the attention of the County administration folks. She is the judge and she can control many things, but the County controls the thermostat. After many polite requests for change, which were ignored, she has now gotten their attention.

About 20 years ago, we had similar issues in the Circuit Courts, when the thermostats were controlled by a computer in Richmond. When it was hot in Richmond, we got air conditioning, whether it was needed or not. The AC would turn off at 5:30, and if we had a trial that ran late, that was just too darn bad. We'd all swelter, and if the jury was staying until 11 PM or later, it was downright miserable. Then the experts said, "Well, we'll set up local thermostats, but we'll cover up the thermostats with plastic covers so that no one could tamper with them." So one of the requirements for being a bailiff was to be good with a paper clip, to be able to reach in and twiddle with the controls.

It's a long-running battle, all required by the fact that the high ceilings, large spaces, lousy air circulation and poor design of the retro-fitted AC systems make for very inefficient systems.

@Yepper - How old is judge higgins? Could she have been experiencing hot flashes? Straight up, legit question.

True and if anyone has ever experienced them, might as well be on fire. Under cold water it's still in a unACed court room it would be more than unbearable. Her court so she can do what she wants.

she's a relatively new judge so her record in that regard is sparse, but yes, that is the best criteria.

I guess tomorrow the guys pouring asphalt will call it a day under the equal protections clause of the constitution.

I guess the diswashers at wendys will call it a day too.

maybe the auto mechanics working under the hoods of 200 degree car engines should go fishing.

It isn't like the courts are BEHIND or anything.

No wonder the system is so screwed up.


I used to believe that electing judges like is done many places was an awful idea. Turns out I was wrong. Here we get politically connected people that are usually former prosecutors. With this trend and the lack of accountability the systems suffers. Not sure about Higgins but she was an average prosecutor, beyond that she dont know. Off topic but....

I think it's as Gasbag was saying, this is something I think they've been trying to resolve for sometime particularly at the behest of the bailiffs. Hopefully this will get the County's attention.

@Mac the cheese: to my knowledge there is no backlog in Albemarle, so not sure what you're referring to.

The vapors!


Your civil protest has been noted and appropriately ignored due to abuse of the whining-baby statute for failure to provide sufficient empirical evidence in support of your case. Without such sufficient supporting evidence including humodity and actual tempeartures, this complaint must be summarily dismissed. Failure to cease this discourse will result in continuing public humiliation for you all supporting participants.



wow, Jake. A little hot under the collar regarding criticism of this particular judge. I believe that there are complaints on this page about her closing the court. I believe those would be coming from "the public". Or maybe you're referring to complaints regarding the heat in the courtroom? Your statement isn't clear.

I believe my statement speaks for itself and I apologize that it has apparently upset you.

Just did some research on how often the local bar flocks to the defense of most judges when they suddenly decide to shut down court and I couldn't find another instance where a judge did such a thing. You sound like you're an expert, why don't you enlighten us with some sourced material?

How old is judge higgins? Could she have been experiencing hot flashes? Straight up, legit question.

And if you don't think that judges angle for reappointment, you are truly, truly naive.

What kind of mickey mouse town is this? some heat closes down the courts?


Deleted by moderator.

Folks, you have to have been in that court when the air is not moving to know what's going on. There are no windows that open. Sometimes you can open a side door, but the security folks freak out when that happens. The heating and cooling are on a thermostat that no human being seems to have access to. On Monday mornings in the winter, when there has been no heat applied over the weekend, it is absolutely brutally cold, and it may be the afternoon before it heats up. Inmates are coming in in short sleeves, shivering. Jurors are wearing coats in the jury box. I was in court Monday morning when the air had not been cooled all weekend, and it had rained that morning, and the air was a combination of hot and humid that was really not pleasant at all.

If you want an unbiased view, ask the bailiffs. They have been suggesting to her for some time that she do something to get the attention of the Albemarle County authorities.

Courtrooms in the City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle are always too hot or too cold. It's been this way for at least the past 40 years. Why are you people arguing about something most of you aren't even familiar with?

Well said, Greenshifter. You have forgotten to mention the third floor courtroom in the County courthouse, however. Its up there next to the Clerk's office. I remember when Gray v. Rhoads forced Judge Hogshire from his courtroom [can't remember if that was via change of venue to the City or a county Judge holding court in a City facility for some reason?]for a week or so. He set up shop up there and I think, was happy to do so. Quite cozy and intimate, but perfectly functional. And I too am distressed by the inconvenience and expense to parties expecting to be heard by Judge Higgins on Wed. I'd thought it was only a few motions hearings that were canceled but in fact she had a trial scheduled to be heard as well. A better explanation or more likely an apology is in order here.

yepper, trust me, that wasn't your first deleted. :)

Please explain your statement "I bet she was careful not to inconvenience anyone with influence." in a way that does involve her reappointment. Also, explain your statement that she holds others only to her "whim" and tell me how, if true, that isn't impropriety? Is your argument therefore that judges who rule according to their whim aren't being improper?

Also, please cite a source saying she didn't call any of the attorneys and witnesses giving them notice of her order.

Stop obsfucating your own arguments. It's not helping you.

Also, "yepper", I'm unsure why you continuously decide to put my handle in quotations. That I'm just curious about.

To point out that you're as anonymous as I am is all... You made a point of noting my anonymity. "Jake" is just as anonymous as "yepper".

Where did I state that she holds others only to her "whim"?

I said that "I’ve never been a party to her whims and I’ve never appeared before her in court."

Where did I say that she was being improper, exactly? I never did.

You're now taking what I said and trying to twist it to match what you said I said. I think you owe me an apology for saying that I accused Judge Higgins of improprieties when I clearly never did any such thing!

The hook's article speaks for itself, Jake, and my criticisms were based on it.

You are correct that I don't know if she personally called all the lawyers herself. Maybe she fedexed letters to them. I shouldn't have said there was no notice, although posting the order on the wall of the court certainly implies that that's how the decision was announced.

lol, how am I being naive, exactly?

I was referring to statements from those inside the courtroom.

I urged you to research judges who haven't been appointed for ANY reason. Do that. I can think of TWO over the last 20 years. I'm not being naive at all, I know how easily it is for judges to be reappointed. The fact of the matter is they don't angle at all, because they know it's a rubber stamp. Only one of us is being naive.

Judge Higgins is in her 40s.

and how does that link to a story about a judge in chesterfield county back up any of your assertions? Doesn't sound like that judge shut down court with zero notice.

There is a difference between being respected and being feared. Judge Higgins may be feared now because of her current position of power. But all your huffing and puffing isn't going to earn her respect. In fact, your hyper-sensitivity to criticism leads me to believe you know how close to the mark my criticism is.

re:"Please explain your statement ââ?¬Å?I bet she was careful not to inconvenience anyone with influence.”"

Just purely conjectural cynicism. That seemed to get you all riled up! Makes me think there's something there there......

No one took me up on my bet and the wagering window is now closed. But I wonder if David Toscano or Rob Bell were pleading a case that day......

"[Parties] are subject to this judge’s whim, I mean ââ?¬Å?rulings”.

It’s not that big a deal. My opinion was presented in a glib fashion and used the term ââ?¬Å?kangaroo court”."

If you truly think I'm taking what you said and twisting it, then you have my apologies, otherwise perhaps you should reconsider how what you are saying comes across--because too many, the above is pretty clear attack on her.

I'm not here to do your research for you. If you'd like to find the dozens of other judges that have been contested at reappointment time, it's truly not that difficult.

If you've never been a party to her whims or appeared before her in court, maybe you should reconsider whether or not she's feared or respected until you have some personal knowledge for yourself. Doesn't that seem like the most prudent course of business? For all you know someone fainted inside the courtroom on Wednesday. Your blanket accusations of impropriety make me quite incredulous as to whether or not you've seen the inside of that courtroom from a less-than-desired vantage point.

cvllelaw's post gives a reasonable perspective, but raises a question about whether it was appropriate for Judge Higgins to close court. Did the conditions cvllelaw observed in the courtroom on Monday--hot, humid, not really pleasant at all--when court was not closed, deteriorate so much that by Wednesday the conditions constituted a "threat to the health and safety" of people using the courtroom? That is the applicable legal standard under the code section (17.1-207)cited by the court. It's a judgment call, to be sure, but threat to health and safety is a pretty high standard. Also, I wonder if any record was made of the conditions that required court to be closed. It would be good for the public to have notice of what the actual threat to health and safety was on this occasion, since court is likely to be closed again if there is a similar threat to health and safety in the future.

but gasbag, was it a threat to health?

Greenshifter points out the lack of empathy in Judge Higgins' decision. Her ONLY criteria was to increase her own comfort. People who have been waiting however long they've been waiting got a real good lesson in exactly how important they are to this judge.

It would be interesting to know what was on the docket, exactly. I bet she was careful not to inconvenience anyone with influence.

@Yepper: How do you know what motivated her decision? Do you know if the attorneys complained? If the bailiffs did? If the public did?

Also, why would she care who has influence? What are they going to do, lobby the general assembly to have her not reappointed 4 years from now because of this? Do some research on how often judges aren't reappointed in the Commonwealth, and how often the local bar flocks to the defense of most judges when things like this come up. In fact, what you're asking for isn't interesting in the least.

lol, Thinking that judges that are only going to be knocked off the bench if they commit a felony or serious misdemeanor care about who they inconvenience.

It backs up my assertion that lawyers constantly flock to the defense of their judges--80 members of the defense bar attended Judge Hauler's hearing. You're having difficulty putting two and two together today aren't you?

She's already earned the respect of the lawyers in her courtroom and many whose she's even sentenced. That's all she needs, not the respect of an anonymous commenter such as yourself. I'm terribly sorry she denied your appeal for your reckless driving ticket or whatever it is you're so worked up about.

"constantly" and one occurrence?

and then you accuse me of some logical fallacy? Wow.

I've never been a party to her whims and I've never appeared before her in court. I only know what's said behind the scenes and the respect of some dude named "Jake" doesn't change that.

Time will tell, my friend....


Why would I have to do research? To prove or disprove your claim? Like I care that much about "Jake"'s assertions?

I don't believe I ever said that "judges don't get reappointed". I never said, "Cheryll Higgins won't get reappointed", but you seem to want to read that in my comments for some reason.

I believe what I said was that if you don't believe judges angle for reappointment, you're being naive. I believe I criticized the decision to close the court with zero notice. I don't see any place where I accuse her of "impropriety" (?) or express a desire to impeach her..... You're being VERY sensitive to criticism of Judge Higgins.

You've provided a hypothetical reason and conjecture as to why it may have been a prudent decision. You've also asserted that the local bar would support the decision of someone that you claim will be in a position of power over them for as long as she wants to be.

But I don't think you've shown any of my statements to be wrong. Keep trying, though!

"too [sic] many"? Who? Who does "Jake" represent, exactly?

glib: 1.readily fluent, often thoughtlessly, superficially, or insincerely so

Thank you for your apology and I apologize if I seem like I'm "attacking" this judge or accusing her of "improprieties".

She is a public figure, appointed by elected representatives. Criticism of such people is EXACTLY what the first amendment is supposed to protect. I'm NOT saying that the hook is obliged to post my comments.

All I'm saying is that a Judge and her advocates should know that there is nothing improper or illegal in criticizing public figures. Attempts at stifling this criticism is un-American and Thomas Jefferson would disapprove of such behavior strongly.

My comment about the kangaroo court had to do with the violin playing story last week. To many, that was unprofessional.