Editor: The initiative to recall Loudoun County School Board member Beth Barts (Leesburg) has progressed from concerned citizens gathering signatures on petitions to judicial proceedings in Loudoun County Circuit Court. Ms. Barts was ordered to appear in court last Monday to “show cause” why she should not be removed. The hearing was largely procedural, and was continued until Wednesday, Sept. 15. The only substantive step was that the presiding judge, Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge Stephen E. Sincavage, recused himself. His reason? He has kids in Loudoun County Public Schools.
In recusing himself, the judge removed the possibility of even the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Judge Sincavage has done the right—the honorable—thing. And in so doing, he has set an example that the Commonwealth’s Attorney, Buta Biberaj must follow if the citizens of Loudoun County are to be afforded equal justice under the law. Ms. Biberaj’s continuing to prosecute the case entails more than the appearance of a conflict of interest—it reeks of an actual, documented, conflict of interest.
– Like Ms. Barts, she was (is she still?) a member of the Facebook group that campaigned behind what its members thought was a wall of internet anonymity to disparage, target, cancel and “dox” parents who dared voice disapproval of Ms. Barts’ conduct and policy proposals as a member of the School Board.
– Ms. Biberaj’s participation in actions that led, in part, to the Barts recall has generated a parallel effort to recall her from the Commonwealth Attorney position.
– Her conflict of interest is substantive and obvious. She can either prosecute the Barts case vigorously, but in so doing, damage her prospects in her own recall case. Or she can move to dismiss the Barts case, thereby hoping to establish a precedent against the recall effort seeking her own removal.
She is inescapably conflicted. It’s as if the driver of the get-away car is in charge of prosecuting the bank robbers.
Ms. Biberaj should do the honorable thing and recuse. If she won’t, she must be removed and replaced with an independent, non-partisan prosecutor who will follow the evidence, prosecute the case with all appropriate vigor, and in so doing, demonstrate to the public that—whatever the result—justice was administered fairly and free of conflict.
Bill Drennan, South Riding