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A circuit judge said Monday that he will not halt a special grand jury investigation of Loudoun County Public Schools despite a filing to stop it.

Judge James Plowman denied the motion for temporary injunction in the lawsuit by the Loudoun County School Board, which was seeking to halt the special grand jury convened by Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares.

There was no discussion of when the special grand jury might complete its work, but the investigation will go on.

In a tweet, Miyares responded to the decision on Monday afternoon saying “we are pleased with the court’s ruling.”

Miyares convened the special grand jury to look into how the school system handled two sexual assaults by the same high school student last year.

“This is a win for parents and students across the Commonwealth,” Miyares wrote. “I will never stop fighting for justice and to protect the families of Loudoun County and the Commonwealth.”

Plowman acknowledged that “teachers, students and parents are third parties” that are in the position of being subpoenaed. “The school board failed to prove irreparable harm.”

Arguing for the school board, attorneys Robert Falconi and Steven Webster argued the special grand jury wasn’t limiting its questions to potential criminal wrongdoing, and was focusing on things ranging from transgender issues to Facebook posts.

Quoting from the Virginia handbook for jurors, Webster said the special grand jury could “not be convened to go on a fishing expedition,” and “not to determine if a law is good or bad.”

Arguing for Miyares was deputy Attorney General Steven Popps. He told Plowman that the special grand jury investigation was legal and constitutional.

“The school board does not get to determine the scope of the investigation. The school board is not above the law,” Popps said.

The school board had argued there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, and the goal of the special grand jury was to release a report critical of school policies. The judge said he didn’t agree with the prediction of a report without indictments.

“You cannot know where this will lead,” Plowman said, repeating that the school board would not be bound by the recommendations in a critical report. “They can turn their eyes and walk the other way.”

As WTOP first reported in May, the school board sought a temporary injunction to prohibit further action by the special grand jury. In its lawsuit, the board said an executive order issued by Gov. Glenn Youngkin on his first day in office went beyond his legal power, and that the special grand jury empaneled by Miyares is being used unlawfully.

In a June 5 response, Miyares said, “There is no First Amendment right of access to grand jury proceedings,” and that opening the hearing to the public would damage the normally secret criminal investigatory process of the grand jury. Miyares also asked that the transcript from the hearing be sealed.

Miyares has previously called the lawsuit “legally baseless” and asked that it be dismissed: “The Complaint seeks to shut down or control a lawfully instituted criminal investigation and any subsequent prosecutions.”

However, in a new motion filed Friday, the school board said no part of its suit would “disclose any matters that are covered by grand jury secrecy provisions,” and that closing the hearing would violate the First Amendment.

“Civil hearings are routinely open to members of the press and the public and that openness plays a ‘significant and positive role’ in the functioning of the courts and in public confidence in the judicial system,” wrote Webster, citing previous appeals court rulings.

“Public access serves to promote trustworthiness of the judicial process, to curb judicial abuses, and to provide the public with a more complete understanding of the judicial system, including a better perception of fairness.”

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports. Reach him at naugenstein@wtop.com

(4) comments

Brad London

It's very interesting that the LCPS are against any investigation. Clearly they have been receiving horrible publicity in the last year. I hope that they expose everything these woke people are doing. Covering up sexual assaults is shameful.

Duke Nukem

So this is a bad judge then? I think we need to turn the system upside down! Another decision that is not good for America! Abolish the courts, anything, until we get our way! That is our compromise.

Paul Benedict

It's amazing the depths to which leftists will go to hide their deeds. Hopefully all will come out and criminal behavior will be prosecuted.

Harry Morant

Motion Denied! Full Speed Ahead!

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