Although a petition to reverse the Shenandoah County School Board's decision to rename two schools was denied by a judge in March, attorneys from both sides of the argument have filed appeals in Virginia Supreme Court.
The School Board has filed an appeal seeking reimbursement for its attorney's fees while the plaintiff seeks to overturn the March decision.
In July 2020, the School Board renamed Stonewall Jackson High School, Ashby Lee Middle School and North Fork Middle School's "Rebels" mascot because of their ties to the Confederate cause during the Civil War. On July 1, the name of Stonewall Jackson High School changed to Mountain View High School, Ashby Lee Elementary School became Honey Run Elementary School, and the North Fork Rebels became the North Fork Generals.
The petition to overturn the name changes was denied in March in Shenandoah County Circuit Court by Judge John Wetsel.
School Board Attorney Lindsay Brubaker, of the BotkinRose law firm, then filed a request for the petitioners' attorneys, Robert Vaughn and Brad Pollack, to pay the $41,000-plus in legal fees her firm spent arguing the case. Pollack is also a member of the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors. Her request was denied in Shenandoah County Circuit Court.
But in the appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court she argues sanctions could have been ordered if the petition was pursued with knowledge that it had no legal standing.
Brubaker states in the appeal that she told Pollack in the months leading up to the hearing that the School Board’s action to rename the schools was legal, and he admitted to the futility of the petition.
A separate petition that sought to reverse the allocation of money to pay for the name changes was also dismissed two weeks ago. Brubaker argues the second petition may not have gone forward if her request for sanctions had been awarded.
In response to Brubaker's appeal, Vaughn filed arguments against her claims. He also filed his own appeal of the decision to deny the petition.
Vaughan argued that Pollack, in his role as a supervisor, was attempting in good faith to stop the name change before it reached the point of litigation.
Vaughn also argued that the dismissal order stated that a controversy between the petitioners and the School Board must be demonstrated — such as the case's outcome affecting the petitioners' rights. If this petition doesn't demonstrate a controversy, Vaughn wrote "it is hard to image a pleading which does."
Vaughn and Brubaker did not return requests for comment Monday. School Board Chairwoman Cynthia Walsh declined to comment on the School Board's appeal. Pollack declined to comment on the School Board's appeal because Vaughn is the lead counsel.
Hearings to decide if the case will be heard in front of the Virginia Supreme Court could take place Sept. 1, Oct. 19 or Dec. 7, according to the State Supreme Court Clerk's office.
If appeals pass procedural checks, rulings are typically made about a year after they are filed. But there are several variables that could change that timeline.
The Supreme Court of Virginia's opinion could send the case back to Shenandoah County Circuit Court for further argument, or dismiss it — allowing the Circuit Court decision to stand — or make a decision on it.