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Hupp dismisses suits challenging county's bonding power

By Joe Beck

A visibly irritated Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp Thursday slammed plaintiff Mark Prince by dismissing three lawsuits filed as challenges to the authority of the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors to borrow money without a voter referendum.

Hupp warned Prince that he risked monetary penalties if he continued filing similar suits in Shenandoah County Circuit Court, and they are later deemed frivolous.

Hupp reminded Prince that after losing protracted legal battles that have reached from Shenandoah County to the Virginia Supreme Court and back to Shenandoah County, it was time for the plaintiff to learn a lesson most children get from their mothers.

"The lesson here is sometimes you have to take 'no' for an answer," Hupp said, after reciting how Prince has lost in each court where he has brought his lawsuits.

Hupp said Prince was entitled to his own opinions about the law, but the suits have taken on the trappings of political activism unsuitable for the workings of the legal system.

"This court will simply not be a stage for the actors," Hupp said, referring to political crusading.

Hupp made his comments after County Attorney J. Jay Litten asked him to crack down on any future lawsuits filed by Prince. Litten told Hupp that Prince's lawsuits, a total of five, including two under review by the state Supreme Court, had taken a toll on him and others representing defendants in the cases, including the U.S. Bank National Association and Sun Trust Bank.

Litten warned that attorneys and others would be inhibited from advising their clients if cases such as Prince's are allowed to expose them to personal liability for services rendered to clients.

Litten said he already has had to advise his malpractice insurer that he is a defendant.

Litten said he wasn't seeking money from Prince, but urged Hupp to issue a ruling that Prince "has been cavalier with respect to using judicial resources in an improper manner to advance his personal views."

Hupp denied a request by Litten that he screen any future lawsuits and reject them for filing if he finds them to be frivolous. Hupp said someone else would have to file a motion challenging a future Prince lawsuit before he decides whether it is frivolous.

In the earlier part of the hearing, Prince appeared as convinced as ever of the rightness of his cause.

The suits, including those still in the appellate court, have sought to require referendums on bonds for some projects currently approved by votes of the Board of Supervisors.
The list of projects being challenged includes the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail and Edinburg School renovation.

"The banks and local governments now have unfettered access to taxpayers' wallets with these bonding schemes," Prince told Hupp.

Allowing them to continue violates Virginia's constitution, he said.

"My primary objective is to give the vote back to the people," Prince said. "I'm tired of being walked on."

He refused to comment after the hearing on any future actions he may take in response to the dismissal of the lawsuits.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com


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