RICHMOND, Va. – For a year and a half, a Virginia mother of seven young girls has been frustrated by repeated delays in the domestic violence case against her estranged husband because his defense lawyer exercised a privilege that most other attorneys don’t have.
Nine separate times, court records show, the appeals trial for her former NASCAR driver husband has been delayed because his attorney, Republican state lawmaker Jeff Campbell, signaled he was too busy with legislative business to go to court.
Attorneys who serve in Virginia's General Assembly or work there have broad discretion to obtain continuances in their cases “as a matter of right” under certain conditions.
But Miranda McClure says Campbell, an attorney in private practice from southwest Virginia, is abusing that privilege to drag out the case amid a divorce and wear her down.
“This whole process has just been a nightmare,” said McClure, who testified against her husband when he was convicted in a lower court of misdemeanor assault and battery against her and has been preparing to testify again.
Lawmakers' continuance privileges have drawn criticism in other cases in Virginia and elsewhere. The late Del. William Robinson Jr. of Norfolk was accused in the 1990s of abusing the statute.
In Georgia, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and TV station WSB-TV reported last year that House Speaker David Ralston used a similar privilege to tie up cases for clients charged with child molestation, child cruelty, assault, terroristic threats, drunken driving and other crimes.
Court records obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request, which cover a sampling of Campbell's work, show the privilege has been invoked in at least 30 of his cases since late 2016. In many cases — including ones involving drug possession and abduction — Campbell has used the privilege multiple times. Other documents show he has invoked it in a civil case involving child-support payments.