State Trial Judge Refuses to Follow State Supreme Court Ruling

Recent VC comment threads suggest that some commenters at the VC admire lower courts judges who are less concerned with following Supreme Court precedent than getting the law right as they see it. Yesterday’s Washington Post highlights an example of this happening in the state court system. A few weeks ago, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a common law writ known as “the writ of coram nobis” could not be used to reopen convictions imposed on immigrants who were ordered deported as a result of their convictions. In a decision handed down two weeks later, Loudoun County trial judge Dean Worcester decided that he found the Supreme Court’s decision unpersuasive and announced he would not follow it.

From the Washington Post story:

Loudoun prosecutors were flabbergasted. Even the defendant’s attorney was shocked.

“We respectfully disagree with the judge’s decision,” Loudoun Commonwealth’s Attorney James E. Plowman said. “We were under the impression that the Supreme Court was extremely clear in its ruling.”

Defense attorney Rob Robertson was surprised to win a case the Supreme Court had apparently declared he should lose, but he said, “It is very refreshing to see that there are judges in the commonwealth who are not going to let a constitutional violation stand.”