Richmond city attorney to retire

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 3/16/2023, 6 p.m.
City Attorney Haskell C. Brown III will immediately leave City Hall’s top legal post in the wake of his arrest ...
Mr. Brown

City Attorney Haskell C. Brown III will immediately leave City Hall’s top legal post in the wake of his arrest for drunken driving, the Free Press has learned.

Mr. Brown, who has nearly 24 years of service as an in-house lawyer for the city, agreed to retire from city service after meeting Monday with members of City Council in a closed-door session.

Council expects to name one of Mr. Brown’s five deputy city attorneys as interim city attorney at a special meeting on Monday, March 20, the Free Press has been told.

Mr. Brown, who had been interim city attorney since 2019, just removed interim from his title seven months ago in an office that lists 18 other attorneys on the staff.

According to a police report and information issued by the council’s staff, the 50-year-old Richmond-area native was arrested March 8 after he sideswiped a car while traveling the wrong way on Sheppard Street in the near West End.

Police charged him with driving under the influence after he took a breathalyzer test and registered a blood alcohol content of .225 percent, or nearly three times the legal limit of .08 percent.

He told police he had been at Bingo Beer Co. for an event and was driving home.

Mr. Brown is now going through the legal process after being arraigned with a first offense of driving while intoxicated.

In the initial release on March 9, the council stated that “driving under the influence is a serious matter,” but did not indicate Mr. Brown would be ousted.

Mr. Brown has been city attorney since Aug. 1, 2022. Council named him to the post after moving him up to interim city attorney following Allen L. Jackson’s retirement in 2019.

A graduate of the University of Virginia, Mr. Brown earned his law degree at West Virginia University College of Law in 1998.

He issued several controversial opinions in the past three years.

One was an ignored 2020 opinion spelling out his view that Mayor Levar M. Stoney could not use authority under a state law governing emergencies to remove Confederate statues.

Another was his 2022 opinion threatening a court challenge to Richmond Public Schools’ assertion of ownership of the Arthur Ashe Jr. Athletic Center, despite a state law that supports the RPS opinion.