Virginia’s top court reinstates prosecutor removed by judge

Dec 7, 2022, 11:15 PM | Updated: Dec 8, 2022, 1:23 pm
FILE - Loudoun County, Va., Commonwealth's Attorney Buta Biberaj, right, speaks to media on Sept. 2...

FILE - Loudoun County, Va., Commonwealth's Attorney Buta Biberaj, right, speaks to media on Sept. 23, 2021, in Leesburg, Va. On Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, the Virginia Supreme Court reinstated Biberaj, a progressive prosecutor on a criminal burglary case, after a judge removed her when he was dissatisfied with a plea deal her office reached. (AP Photo/Matthew Barakat, File)

(AP Photo/Matthew Barakat, File)

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) — The Virginia Supreme Court reinstated a progressive prosecutor on a criminal burglary case Thursday after a judge removed her when he was dissatisfied with a plea deal her office reached.

The ruling faulted Circuit Court Judge James Plowman for removing Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj without giving her adequate opportunity to defend her actions.

“Judge Plowman disqualified Biberaj’s office without affording her or her subordinates adequate notice or opportunity to be heard,” the court wrote.

The case is indicative of tensions that have arisen in northern Virginia courthouses after Biberaj and other reform-minded prosecutors won office in 2019, in part with huge financial assistance from a political action committee funded by liberal donor George Soros. Conservative activists have launched efforts to have Biberaj and other prosecutors in the region removed from office.

Plowman, a Republican who preceded Biberaj as commonwealth’s attorney before he took the bench, was dissatisfied with the plea deal that Biberaj’s office struck in the burglary case involving a man named Kevin Valle. The agreement called for a six-month sentence.

Plowman said he was aware of earlier charges against Valle in a neighboring county and questioned why prosecutors failed to mention them in the plea paperwork. He suggested they were trying to sanitize Valle’s record to make the deal more palatable.

Disposition of Valle’s case was rescheduled twice after Plowman raised concerns. Several days before the rescheduled hearing, Plowman issued an order disqualifying Biberaj and her entire office from the case. He appointed a prosecutor in neighboring Fauquier County to take over.

Biberaj appealed, saying that while judges have the right to discipline attorneys who appear before them, Plowman went too far in removing the entire office. As a constitutional officer and elected official, Biberaj said judges should tread lightly when interfering with her exercise of duties.

The high court’s ruling Thursday focused on Biberaj’s due process rights to defend her conduct to the judge. A footnote states that the court offers “no opinion on any other issue relevant to the disqualification of Biberaj and her office.”

Biberaj did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Virginia Attorney General’s Office, which represented Plowman and the Loudoun County Circuit Court, declined to comment.

Victor Glasberg, one of the attorneys who represented Biberaj, called the ruling “an important success vindicating due process rights and a progressive prosecutor who was elected by Loudoun County voters.”

Plowman also removed Biberaj and her office from a misdemeanor disorderly conduct case against a man whose daughter was sexually assaulted at a Loudoun County high school. That assault became a high-profile issue in last year’s gubernatorial election after Republicans said the school system’s handling of the assault showed a disregard for school safety.

The father was charged with disorderly conduct at a contentious school board meeting. There is no indication that Thursday’s ruling affects Biberaj’s status in that case.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


President Joe Biden talks with Vice President Kamala Harris after the State of the Union address to...
Associated Press

Biden makes Wisconsin his 1st stop after State of the Union

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday was headed to Wisconsin, a battleground state he won by the slimmest of margins in 2020, to press his economic message and other themes from his State of the Union address in the window before his next big speech: announcing a possible reelection bid. Biden was set […]
1 day ago
FILE - People walk amongst the debris at the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of Gr...
Associated Press

International team to present update on MH17 investigation

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — An international team is presenting an update Wednesday on its investigation into the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. The announcement comes nearly three months after a Dutch court convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian rebel for their roles in shooting down the Boeing 777 and […]
1 day ago
President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U...
Associated Press

China says it was smeared in Biden State of the Union speech

BEIJING (AP) — China says it was smeared in U.S. President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address that repeatedly mentioned competition between the two countries. China does not fear competing with the U.S. but is “opposed to defining the entire China-U.S. relationship in terms of competition,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a […]
1 day ago
FILE - A sign is shown on a Google building at their campus in Mountain View, Calif., Sept. 24, 201...
Associated Press

Google hopes ‘Bard’ will outsmart ChatGPT, Microsoft in AI

Google is girding for a battle of wits in the field of artificial intelligence with “Bard," a conversational service apparently aimed at countering the popularity of the ChatGPT tool backed by Microsoft.
1 day ago
South Korean Interior and Safety Minister Lee Sang-min arrives to attend a meeting on integrated de...
Associated Press

South Korean lawmakers impeach minister over crowd crush

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s opposition-controlled parliament on Wednesday voted to impeach the country’s interior and safety minister, Lee Sang-min, holding him responsible for government failures in disaster planning and the response that likely contributed to the high death toll in a crowd crush that killed nearly 160 people in October. The impeachment […]
1 day ago
A sign stands on a quiet day in what used to be AmericaÅfs largest overseas naval base at the Subi...
Associated Press

US forces returning to Philippines to counter China threats

SUBIC BAY, Philippines (AP) — Once-secret ammunition bunkers and barracks lay abandoned, empty and overrun by weeds — vestiges of American firepower in what used to be the United States’ largest overseas naval base at Subic Bay in the northern Philippines. But that may change in the near future. The U.S. has been taking steps […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Virginia’s top court reinstates prosecutor removed by judge