A Circuit Court judge this morning recused himself from hearing the removal case against School Board member Beth Barts (Leesburg).
The case was brought by a voter petition with 1,860 signatures is seeking to have Barts, who was elected to the post in 2019, removed from office based over allegations that she abused the power of her office, and that her participation in a private Facebook group violated Virginia’s open meeting laws and the School Board’s Code of Conduct.
Monday’s hearing was the first court action in the case, scheduled as a show cause hearing during which Barts would present evidence refuting the claims.
However, the hearing did not move beyond procedural issues as Judge Stephen E. Sincavage announced he would recuse himself from hearing the case. Sincavage cited having school-aged children as his reason for his recusal.
Charlie King, Barts’ attorney, last week filed a motion for local judges to recuse themselves, and that a judge be designated by the state Supreme Court to hear the case. He said an outside judge is needed to weigh the testimony of local elected officials, administrative officers of the School Board, members of the Virginia State Bar, and community leaders.
“Judge Sincavage’s recusal was in keeping with the highest standards of judicial conduct. I expect other judges will recuse themselves,” King said after Monday’s hearing.
The case is scheduled to return to the courthouse at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The removal petition, spearheaded by the group Fight for Schools, also requested that Commonwealth Attorney Buta Biberaj recuse herself from the case. Biberaj is facing a similar recall effort introduced by the conservative group, StandUp Virginia, for her office’s alleged mishandling of criminal cases.
To remove a public official from office in Virginia, a petition must collect the number of signatures of qualified voters in the district equal to 10% of the votes cast in the previous election for that office. A judge then reviews the petition and rules whether to dismiss or conduct a trial.