Morrissey questions Circuit Court Judge Brice; part of judicial performance review by General Assembly

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A number of Chesterfield-Colonial Heights Circuit Court judges are up for six-year renewals, but one in particular was questioned by state Sen. Joe Morrissey (D) recently.

He asked Lynn S. Brice, one of six circuit court judges serving Chesterfield, several questions during a joint Dec. 10 meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Courts of Justice Committee.

Morrissey said Brice was “unfailingly polite” to him when he appeared before her as an attorney, but noted he received several complaints about her.

A district court clerk in a small jurisdiction described her relationship with Brice as a “toxic work environment,” Morrissey said.

Brice noted that her relationship with that clerk “got contentious” over scheduling cases in the morning and afternoon in between a 2- or 3-hour lunch break. Brice said she wanted more cases scheduled for the morning as a matter of efficiency.

Brice said the clerk suggested she go to lunch or watch TV in the judge’s chambers during the interim. “I said, ‘That’s not what I’m being paid for,’” Brice said.

Morrissey said the clerk told him that Brice only served two of seven scheduled days in October, one of nine days in November and one of eight days in December.

Brice said Chesterfield is much busier than the smaller jurisdiction. She noted that during the last grand jury, Chesterfield had 450 indictments compared to 39 in the smaller jurisdiction.

“I’m trying to balance both jurisdictions,” Brice said.

Morrissey also asked Brice about allegedly asking a prosecutor to remove her mask in the courtroom. He noted that the prosecutor has a immunocompromised child. Brice said the prosecutor’s comments were muffled, and Brice couldn’t understand her.

The day after the exchange in court, Brice said she invited the attorney to her office and told her that she could move to the podium to speak instead of the counsel table, or stand at the back door with a microphone.

Morrissey said he was told there was a “yelling match” during that conversation the next day, but Brice denied it.

Morrissey asked Brice about allegedly telling a female attorney to breast pump on her own time after the attorney requested a recess to pump during a trial. “That absolutely did not happen,” Brice said.

Finally, Morrissey asked Brice about her judicial performance evaluation, where she ranked 44th out of 51 judges. Brice said her scores were high on knowledge of the law and diligence and faithfulness to the law. However, she was concerned about her scores on patience and courtesy.

“I vowed to do better … and watch my tone,” she said.

Brice said she served as a district court judge for 13 years before being elevated to the circuit court.

Public comment

During public comment, Rhonda Kirschmann of Chesapeake said “interpersonal skills are much less important to me than areas of law.”

She said “the Chesterfield chief of police is running an utter muck of reliable process” in relation to 37 separate Internet Crimes Against Children charges without conjunction of the ICAC task force.

“I’ve seen Judge [David ] Johnson stand up against Chesterfield’s chief of police [Jeffrey Katz] and prosecuting attorney,” Kirschmann said, but no other Chesterfield circuit court judge.

Kirschmann referred to “an entrapment scheme” and an “arrest-a-thon” that resulted in Class 6 felony charges against 37 people. These kinds of charges are usually heard in federal court, she said, but in Chesterfield they are being held in the juvenile and domestic relations court, which isn’t a court of record.

“We have prostitution charges with no real-life prostitute, no real-life pimp, no real-life exchange of money, no real-life carnal knowledge,” she said.


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