On January 31, 2020, I found myself in the back area behind the courtroom with my wrists in metal handcuffs, a chain around my waist, my hands chained to my waist, and my legs shackled. After numerous pat downs and a transport, I was eventually ordered to stand naked and be subjected to a strip search by a Deputy Sheriff.

Not what typically happens to a seasoned and well-regarded divorce attorney practicing for over 30 years after argument and rulings on a Motion.

All because I asked Judge James P. Fisher to explain the authority behind his ruling and to simply clarify that ruling, in a rather complex divorce case. Was it ego, misogyny, arrogance and pride that led to this judge feeling that he would rather dominate an assertive attorney advocating for her client instead of explaining his ruling to her?

I filed a complaint with the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission (JIRC) regarding Fisher’s failure to remove himself from further proceedings in that case. There is a gate-keeper for the JIRC process who can decide whether or not cases go on to the Virginia Supreme Court. I don’t know how chummy that gate-keeper — who is also a former county prosecutor like Fisher — is with Fisher. I don’t know if the two members of the JIRC that I asked be recused from the panel due to their relationships with Fisher were removed or not. I don’t know if Fisher received a slap on the wrist, a pat on the head, or if the complaint was even considered — because JIRC proceedings are secret.

They should not be.

If there were a Reddit thread where litigants posted their memes and their fishy stories of Fishy Business, I’d bet that thread would be long.

What constitutes Fishy Business?

1. A judge being appointed secretly in back rooms behind closed doors without any interview or vetting or evaluation, while other candidates were told to go home without getting an interview.

2. If a JIRC Complaint is filed and the complaining party is never told the disposition, or if the Complaint was even considered.

3. If there are questions in a case regarding a judge violating Judicial Canons of Ethics for perhaps conducting an improper independent investigation, and not treating litigants with respect, as in Ms. Katie Orndoff’s case.

4. If the judge seems a bit misogynistic and favors “his kind.” Ms. Orndoff, jailed by Fisher, spent time during her incarceration completely naked because “someone” deemed her a “suicide risk,” so she was denied even jail clothing. Ms. Orndoff was also ordered to give blood and a urine sample in front of a Deputy.

5. If the judge revictimizes a victim of domestic violence who is testifying about a third assault against her involving being punched in the face, and winds up being ordered to jail for 10 days as Ms. Orndoff was, because the judge felt she was not treating the proceedings with the appropriate respect.

6. If the judge seems to be implying that the use of marijuana, such as in the Orndoff case, is inappropriate, without allowing all the facts to be presented, but puts his own facts into the record, when in your state marijuana is regarded as no different than alcohol.

7. If the judge treats a witness who has mental health or anxiety issues, who testifies that she has not been taking her prescribed medications and is anxious, and that judge does not treat her with compassion such as by asking if she needs a break or would like a brief recess during a very difficult hearing, such as in Ms. Orndoff’s case.

I believe Fisher knows that the taxpayers of Loudoun County will continue to fund his big fat pension, and pay his big fat salary, until he feels like getting off the bench.

I call on those who have been contacting me with their stories of Fishy Business to post their fishy stories, and to send them to State Senator Scott Surovell. Mr. Surovell can take those stories to the General Assembly where they need to go, for discussion of the propriety of the impeachment and removal of Fisher from the Loudoun County bench, and to discuss enacting legislation to make JIRC proceedings transparent.

Here’s a fishy story of Fishy Business. As I was being transported from the courthouse to the Detention Center, people were already calling to obtain from the courthouse what is known as an “ambient recording” to find out what had just happened to me. For some reason, there was no recording. Was it just not working that day? Had it been turned off? Had it been disabled? Was it simply broken? If so,

for how long had it been broken? Had there been a work order put in to fix it? Inquiring minds want to know. Good thing I had hired my own court reporter.

The people who are willing to rise up, act up, and speak up, show nothing but guts and grace, and have what it takes to do what it takes. Those of us who will not bend knee stand together. We stand with you the community, and we will stand against injustice.

Rachel Virk has been practicing Family Law in Northern Virginia since 1990, and has been continuously Certified for Family Mediation since 2001. Her offices are located in Sterling.

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