WOODSTOCK — The presiding judge in Shenandoah County Circuit Court will not hear the petition challenging the decision by the State Board for Community Colleges to rename five colleges, including Lord Fairfax Community College.

Judge Kevin Black said he had represented and considered himself a friend of William Holtzman, who is one of the four appellants of the petition.

Holtzman is the founder of Holtzman Oil Corp. The other three appellants were unsuccessful candidates for the county’s Board of Supervisors during the recent elections.

The announcement came during a hearing Thursday in Shenandoah County Circuit Court in which a date was to be scheduled to hear arguments on the legal standing of the case.

Woodstock-based attorney Brad Pollack’s petition, on behalf of the appellants, states that the name change process didn’t follow public-input requirements.

The State Board for Community Colleges responded by saying it is immune to the lawsuit. The petition is missing information and actually references a recommendation, not a regulation.

The State Board for Community Colleges voted on July 22 to change the name of LFCC to Laurel Ridge Community College. It also voted to change the Chester-based John Tyler Community College to Brightpoint Community College and to add an ampersand to Patrick & Henry Community College in Martinsville.

Two other schools — Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton and Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in Clifton Forge — will also be renamed to Virginia Peninsula Community College and Mountain Gateway Community College, respectively.

The renaming decisions follow a July 2020 request from the state board asking all 23 Virginia community colleges to consider if their names are appropriate. Many educational institutions across the country have been considering if their names have possible racist ties following protests that erupted after the May 25, 2020, killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer.

LFCC, which opened in Middletown in 1970, was named for Thomas, 6th Lord Fairfax (1693-1781), a wealthy landowner and slaveholder. The LFCC name change will become effective the 2022-2023 school year.

During the Thursday hearing, Pollack did not object to the recusal. Noelle Shaw-Bell, counsel for the Virginia Community College System, of which the State Board for Community Colleges is the governing body, did not object to it either. Shaw-Bell appeared by telephone conference.

The recusal will go to the chief judge of the 26th Judicial Circuit, which includes the cities of Winchester and Harrisonburg and the counties of Clarke, Frederick, Page, Rockingham, Shenandoah and Warren, Black explained. The chief judge will then assign a new judge, likely William Sharp out of Warren County, but could be somebody else, Black added.

Before the recusal, Black questioned why the petition was being heard in his court, as the State Board for Community Colleges is based out of Richmond.

"Why would I hear it in Shenandoah County?" Black asked.

"That's a good question, your honor," Pollack responded.

Pollack explained that because the petition is challenging a regulation that applied generally across the community college system, the petition can be filed where the appellants live.

If the challenge was over a more specific case, such as an issue with a student, then the petition would need to be filed in the jurisdiction of the State Board for Community Colleges, which is in Chesterfield County, Pollack said.

Shaw-Bell stated she agreed with Pollack on the jurisdiction rationale. She was more concerned with the legal standing in the case, she said.

Once a new judge is assigned to the case, then the case will proceed again, including scheduling a hearing to argue the legal standing in the case, Black explained.

The next court date was not set during the hearing.

Contact Charles Paullin at cpaullin@nvdaily.com

(6) comments

RightSide

The LFCC name change is a travesty. History will look back at this "woke" period and judge you progressives very harshly. You are on the wrong side of history. And you don't even realize it.

TheOneAndOnlyNuri

Yawn... more drivel from a nameless, feckless nobody.

Catherine Giovannoni

Good for the judge for recusing himself in this case. Meanwhile, this frivolous suit is wasting taxpayer time and money. The new judge should dismiss it as soon as possible.

Deus_Vult

Hey bot, the "waste of taxpayer time and money" are those like you who decided to change the name in the first place.

TheOneAndOnlyNuri

Yawn...

Deus_Vult

Yawn...

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