All three Alexandria Circuit Court judges have removed themselves from hearing a lawsuit that challenges the court's appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate alleged illegal gambling operations and "misfeasance of public officials" in Alexandria.
Judge Franklin Backus has asked the state Supreme Court in Richmond to appoint another judge, saying it would be "improper" for himself or Judges Donald Kent or Wiley Wright to rule on the lawsuit, filed earlier this month against special prosecutor Edward J. White by Robert B. Gerber, a target of White's investigation.
White was appointed in April by the Alexandria Circuit Court to handle the investigation of possible bingo violations at the request of Commonwealth's Attorney William L. Cowhig. City officials had complained that Cowing had failed to move fast enough on the probe.
Gerber's suit claims that Cowhig was never found to be "disqualified" or "disabled" as an attorney, and that White lacked the authority to perform the duties of a special prosecutor.
One of White's first acts was to issue a search warrant June 8 for Gerber's residence for "items and records relating to gambling and bingo operations." Gerber has not been charged with any crime. He says he has suffered embarrassment since Alexandria police began looking into his alleged bingo connections.
Commenting on Backus's request to the Supreme Court, Judge Kent said yesterday, "we just didn't think it would be proper to make a ruling on something we had ourselves initiated."