2nd complaint filed against Judge Cavedo

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 7/30/2020, 6 p.m.
Richmond Circuit Court Judge Bradley B. Cavedo is facing a second complaint to the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission seeking …
Bradley Cavedo - 1991 photo

Richmond Circuit Court Judge Bradley B. Cavedo is facing a second complaint to the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission seeking his removal from the bench based on the judge’s efforts to bar the city and state from removing Confederate statues.

On Wednesday, former Richmond City Councilman Sa’ad El-Amin filed a complaint saying that Judge Cavedo knew the law but issued rulings demonstrating “his lack of impartiality and his intent to side with the plaintiff.”

Mr. El-Amin’s complaint against Judge Cavedo is separate from one filed earlier in July by Richmond attorney and former federal prosecutor David P. Baugh. The JIRC investigates charges of misconduct lodged against state court judges or complaints of serious mental or physical disability that interfere with a judge’s ability to perform his or her duties.

Judge Cavedo, who along with JIRC, is barred from commenting on complaints.

The judge has removed himself from hearing any cases dealing with Confederate statues because he lives within the Monument Avenue Historic District and just blocks from the contested statue of Confederate Robert E. Lee and the site where the statue of Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart stood.

But Judge Cavedo has left behind two injunctions he imposed that restrict state and city government action against Confederate statues that are the focus of the complaints about his fitness to serve.

One injunction bars Gov. Ralph S. Northam from removing the prominent, state-owned statue of Lee at Monument and Allen avenues. The other bars Mayor Levar M. Stoney from removing any more Confederate statues, notably the North Side statue of Confederate Gen. A.P. Hill.

In the case involving the Lee statue, Mr. El-Amin noted that Judge Cavedo violated legal precedents banning state courts from enforcing racially restrictive covenants.

“The pronouncement by Gov. Northam that the statue is a ‘badge of white supremacy’ was binding on the judge,” Mr. El-Amin wrote in the complaint, “at least in the initial stages of the case, and it was the burden of the plaintiff bringing the request for an injunction that the governor was wrong or not authorized to make such a statement.”

Mr. El-Amin cited long-standing court precedent that “deci- sions by states are at least initially deemed lawful.” And he noted that the governor’s statement should have forced Judge Cavedo to immediately require the case be sent to federal court.

Mr. El-Amin also wrote that Judge Cavedo “arrogantly and improperly imposed his view of the statue” by declaring the governor was only the custodian or fiduciary of the statue on behalf of the people.

The judge’s statement “clearly established” that “the judge lacked impartiality because he was personally opposed to the removal of the statue; therefore, he was not judicially fit to rule on the case,” Mr. El-Amin stated in his complaint.

In the case involving Mayor Stoney and city-owned statues, Mr. El-Amin noted that Judge Cavedo awarded an anonymous plaintiff standing to sue without making any determination of the right of the unknown person to sue.

Mr. El-Amin cited a previous request for an injunction in the case that Judge Cavedo threw out after determining the individual who filed supporting documents did not have standing, or a legal right, to bring the case.

However, in an about-face, Judge Cavedo awarded the injunction to the anonymous plaintiff even though the plaintiff had not filed a required affidavit to support his or her right to bring the request, Mr. El-Amin stated.

He also noted that Judge Cavedo issued the injunction despite the anonymous plaintiff’s failure to address the fact the mayor used his emergency powers to temporarily remove the statues.

“Since the suit did not address (the mayor’s) emergency powers,” Mr. El-Amin stated, “Judge Cavedo’s ruling ... granting this litigant a temporary injunction was completely and totally an abuse of discretion.”

Mr. El-Amin stated that the only conclusion is that the judge “predetermined the outcome of the case, which is the antithesis of the requirement of impartiality,” and should be found unfit to serve.