WOODSTOCK — The attorney for the state college board defending the name change for Lord Fairfax Community College is seeking to move the case to the Richmond area because of the name recognition of the Shenandoah County residents protesting the change.
Woodstock-based attorney Bradley Pollack filed the petition for appeal in September stating that the State Board for Community College’s decision to rename five community colleges across Virginia, including LFCC, didn’t follow proper procedure.
The appeal states that the decision didn’t make changes to the college’s name in compliance with Virginia Code 2.2-4103 of the Virginia Register Act. Among the code’s stipulations are that regulations must be filed with the Registrar of Regulations and be made available to the public.
LFCC, which opened in Middletown in 1970, was named for Thomas, 6th Lord Fairfax (1693-1781), a wealthy landowner and slaveholder. The name change for LFCC, which serves Shenandoah County and other parts of the Northern Shenandoah Valley, will become effective the 2022-2023 school year.
Noelle Shaw-Bell, counsel for the Virginia Community College System, which includes the State Board for Community Colleges, filed a response to the petition saying the board is immune to the litigation and the petition actually challenges a recommendation, not a regulation.
In July 2020, the VCCS board asked Virginia’s 23 community colleges to review the “appropriateness” of their school names. The VCCS board then had to approve the name changes and told officials at two colleges that resisted name changes — Dabney S. Lancaster Community College and Patrick Henry Community College — to reconsider their decisions not to rename. Both colleges were eventually renamed.
Judge Kevin Black recused himself in the first hearing of the case in November, citing a relationship with William Holtzman, owner of Holtzman Oil Corp. and one of the four appellants in the case. The other three appellants were unsuccessful candidates for the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors seats during the November elections.
Shaw-Bell did not initially challenge the case being heard in Shenandoah County in November when Black, before he recused himself, questioned why the case was being heard in his courtroom. The case is being heard in Shenandoah County because that’s where the appellants reside, Pollack explained then.
But in her December motion to change the venue, Shaw-Bell pointed to the notoriety of the applicants as to why she wanted to move the lawsuit to Chesterfield County, where the board meets. Several news articles on the appellants’ run for public office were included with the motion.
“The political contacts and deep personal and professional roots of the Appellants, combined with the widespread politically charged coverage, cannot be ignored by this Court,” the motion states. “This combination has the potential to taint any decision of this Court on the litigated issues.”
But because Shaw-Bell’s initial motion requested the venue be changed to the City of Richmond instead of Chesterfield County, Pollack filed a motion for sanctions, seeking to deny the motion to change the venue and that reasonable attorney fees be covered. Pollack argues that the litigation shouldn’t be causing unnecessary delays and the motion is in violation of not making false statements about the qualifications or integrity of judges. In addition, the case is not going before a jury of Shenandoah County residents.
Shaw-Bell, who sent an email to the court apologizing for the mistake, filed an amended motion to request the case be moved to Chesterfield County. She filed a response to the motion for sanctions stating it was not the intent to delay the proceedings and that the court had made clear that an inadvertent mistake is not sanctionable. Her response states that the mistake was made after researching the board’s mailing address, not geographical address.
No further hearings have been scheduled in the case.