Michele Finn has gone to court to prevent her late husband's brother from collecting a $10,000 award from the state of Virginia, arguing that she should get the money to settle a court judgment against him in her favor.
Finn's lawyer, Gregory L. Murphy of Alexandria, has filed a writ of garnishment in Prince William County Circuit Court against John Finn, who along with Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R), opposed Michele Finn's attempts last year to end life support for her husband Hugh Finn. Earlier this week, Michele Finn's lawyers also said she should get more than $100,000 from the state to compensate for Gilmore's intervention in the case.
The writ filed in Prince William is the latest step in a feud over money appropriated by this year's General Assembly. Over the governor's objection, the lawmakers agreed to give Michele Finn $48,000 to defray legal costs in her court battles with the governor. In a nod to Gilmore and others who opposed that payment, the legislature awarded $10,000 to John Finn, who unsuccessfully fought Michele Finn's attempt to have the feeding tube removed from her brain-damaged husband's body.
Michele Finn contends she should get John Finn's share of the public reimbursement because he has failed to pay her about $13,000, as ordered by Judge Frank A. Hoss Jr. last July. Hoss ordered John Finn to pay that amount to cover legal fees incurred by Michele Finn during her court battle with family members.
After John Finn and other family members lost in court, they turned to Gilmore in their attempt to save Hugh Finn, a Louisville newscaster who had been catastrophically injured in a 1995 auto accident.
On Sept. 30, the governor, backed by Attorney General Mark L. Earley (R), again asked Hoss to prevent Michele Finn from having her husband's feeding tube removed.
The judge refused, as did the Virginia Supreme Court. That cleared the way for removal of the feeding tube, and eight days later, on Oct. 9, Hugh Finn, 44, died.
But that didn't mark the end of the dispute.
In November, Hoss awarded an additional $13,800 to Michele Finn, this time from Gilmore, whom he sanctioned for filing a frivolous lawsuit. Gilmore is appealing.
On Wednesday, in a hearing before the Virginia Supreme Court, Michele Finn's attorney said her legal fees now top $100,000. Murphy added that he hoped the high court will return the case to Hoss's court for rehearing, where Murphy said he might seek "hundreds of thousands of dollars" from Gilmore to teach a lesson to public officials who interfere in private family matters.
John Finn's lawyer, M. Miller Baker of Washington, said yesterday that the Finns, who operate an auto repair shop in Manassas, are an "average middle-American family, of average means" who can't afford to pay the judgment to Michele Finn.
Gilmore's press secretary Mark A. Miner called the latest court action "unfortunate," noting that "the $10,000 was designated to John Finn for his suffering in this matter."