The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals took the unsual step this week of removing U.S. District Court Judge James C. Turk from a case in the western district of Virginia because he may be called to tell in court how he pressured Albemarle County supervisors to accept a controversial land rezoning.
Senior Circuit Court Judge Albert V. Bryan of Alexandria said in an opinion that the supervisors agreed to the rezoning for a large town house development only after Turk warned them "he would do all he could" to see that damaages won by the developers against the supervisors "were paid out of their own pockets."
Turk also warned the board that he, not a jury, would fix the amount of any damage, Bryan said.
Under this judicial pressure, the supervisors agreed to the rezoning, but two Albemarle citizens associations opposed to the development quickly. sought to reopen the case. Turk refused to do so, but the circuit court ordered new hearings under a new judge.
The zoning case, which normally would have been tried in a state court, was taken to federal court because the developers of the proposed. 128-acre project claimed that the rezoning denial was an act of racial discrimination.
The suit against the supervisors was filed by James N. Fleming, a black member of the group proposing the development, and two development firms, Flemenco Enterprises Inc. and Four Seasons West, a limited partnership.
The citizens association opposing the development on the banks of the Albemarle County water reservoir contend that it could result in pollution of the water supply.