Majority Leader Adelard L. Brault (D-Fairfax) stood at his desk in the Senate chamber, nervously fiddling with a sheath of papers before him. The bill before the Senate was so agonizing, he told his colleagues, that he might manage to "be in the cloakroom when the vote is taken."
The bill that occasioned this morality play was a measure to appropriate $77,949.98 for a Richmond judge who had according to the law automatically lost his retirement benefits when he was resigned from the bench in the midst of a scandal.
The former judge, Harold C. Maurice, 72, was ousted by the state supreme court in 1977 after it had up-held a judicial inquiry commission's finding that he had given confiscated guns and liquor to friends and drunk confiscated beer in the court property room and his champers. Though he was reimbursed for money he had contributed toward his retirement, he lost the right to what could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars in monthly benefits, depending on how long he lived.
The sponsor of the bill was the senior senator from Richmond, Edward E. Willey (D), like Maurice, a member of the city's white establishment, who said, "At least a thousand people have stopped me on the street and expressed concern that Judge Maurice had been given a harsh sentence . . . Judge Maurice has suffered a harsh penalty . . . He did drink beer in his chamber. But if you're going to take away the retirement money of every judge who drinks in his chambers, you would not have to have much money in the kitty for retired judges."
Willey called Maurice's actions "indiscretions." He said he had been betrayed by people in whom he had put trust. "Everyone here understands you have to place you trust in your employes," Willey said. "This is what Judge Maurice did."
But other senators referred to a plea bargaining agreement Maurice signed just before he resigned from the bench. Under the agreement, Maurice agreed to resign in exchange for the federal government's not seeking to indict him for illegally selling guns that had been confiscated by his the case, and sentenced to jail, and another committed suicide after he had been arrested. [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] he denied before the judical-inquiry commission that he had anything to do with gun selling. The federal presecutor said that he probably wouldn't have been able to get a conviction - not because he didn't think Maurice was guilty but because he thought a jury would be reluctant to convict a judge.
As the debate became more acrimonious, one senator moved to carry it over for action to the next day for some reworking. But on the next day it was found that the reworking was still unsatisfactory, so it was carried over for the second straight day.
Just as the senators were finally about to vote on the measure Saturday, it was announced that the bill was unconstitutional because the General Assembly could not pass legislation having the affect of overturning a decision by the judicial inquiry commission.