- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2003

RICHMOND A former state delegate said he will defend Senate candidate and former Newport News Circuit Court Judge Verbena Askew against a Virginia State Bar complaint filed by the head of the Senate committee that denied her reappointment to the bench.
A. Donald McEachin, himself a candidate for a state Senate seat this year, said Monday that he will consider filing a counterclaim with the bar against state Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle charging that his complaint against Miss Askew is frivolous.
Mr. Stolle, Virginia Beach Republican and chairman of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, charged in a complaint filed last week that Miss Askew lied on questionnaires submitted to the Courts of Justice Committees of the House and the Senate in 2001 and 1999.
Miss Askew was grilled before the legislature's courts committees in January during a bitter, racially charged meeting about a sexual-harassment complaint filed by a former subordinate of the judge.
Mr. Stolle, who is white, contended during the extraordinary, seven-hour meeting that Miss Askew lied on questionnaires she submitted to the committees by not disclosing the complaint filed by Brenda Collins, former administrator of a Hampton-Newport News drug court.
Miss Askew, the first black woman to serve as a Circuit Court judge in Virginia who left the court in mid-March, said she was truthful because the complaint was not filed against her, but the city of Hampton, which settled the complaint for $64,000.
"Our defense is on what the truth was and [Mr.] Stolle is really dealing with a frivolous complaint," said Mr. McEachin, a Richmond lawyer who was the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for state attorney general in 2001. "If this is as frivolous as it seems to be, then we're going to have to file [a complaint]."
Miss Askew could lose her law license if the state bar affirms Mr. Stolle's complaint.
Mr. Stolle said in an interview last week that as a lawyer, he had an obligation to lodge a complaint against Miss Askew if he suspected she lied on her questionnaire or tried to deceive the legislative committees.
The rancor escalated last week when a black Democratic state senator, L. Louise Lucas, renewed her characterization of Mr. Stolle and other white members of the courts committees as members of a "lynch mob."
Miss Askew announced last month she would run for the Senate seat of retiring Sen. W. Henry Maxwell, Newport News Democrat. She faces Hampton Mayor Mamie Locke in the June 10 Democratic primary.
Mr. McEachin is challenging state Sen. Benjamin J. Lambert III, a fellow Democrat, for his seat representing much of the city of Richmond.

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