Virginia AG Miyares: Loudoun Co. school board suit to halt special grand jury ‘legally baseless’

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares says the Loudoun County School Board’s lawsuit attempting to shut down a special grand jury investigation is “legally baseless.”

As WTOP first reported last month, the school board is seeking a temporary injunction to prohibit any further actions by the special grand jury, convened by Miyares, to look into how the school system handled two sexual assaults by the same high school student last year.

In a motion filed Wednesday, Miyares said the school board’s suit should be dismissed: “The Complaint seeks to shut down or control a lawfully instituted criminal investigation and any subsequent prosecutions.”

Miyares convened the special grand jury under one of the first executive orders issued by Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Executive Order 4 authorizes Miyares to conduct “a full investigation into Loudoun County Public Schools.”

In its suit, the school board’s attorney Steven T. Webster said Youngkin’s executive order — and the resulting investigation by Miyares — exceeded the Virginia executive branch’s authority.

According to Webster’s complaint, the Virginia Constitution says “local school boards are vested with the exclusive power over ‘the supervision of schools in each school division.'”

Citing previous rulings, Miyares argues the doctrine of sovereign immunity protects his investigation “from burdensome interference with the performance of its governmental functions.”

In addition, Miyares said an ongoing criminal investigation cannot be halted by an injunction in a civil case, since the school board has other options — to attempt to quash a subpoena, and to attempt to dismiss any indictments.

The school board’s suit alleges the scope of the investigation is far beyond any possible crimes; records and testimony have been subpoenaed regarding the LCPS transgender policy, Title IX, Facebook posts and educational accommodations for students with exceptional needs.

Miyares says the school board’s request to limit the scope “fundamentally misstates the role of a special grand jury” and is “legally baseless.”

“The results of this investigative process cannot possibly be known at the outset of the investigation,” Miyares wrote. “A special grand jury necessarily has the power to conduct a wide-ranging and thorough investigation into alleged unlawful activity — even if that investigation does not result in any indictment of any kind.”

Webster, in the school board suit, said the special grand jury is causing consternation and expense to subpoenaed families and the school system while continuing to search for wrongdoing.

“Once the government determines it is not proceeding criminally, it must terminate a grand jury investigation,” he wrote, saying the Supreme Court has held it is proper to prevent “the indiscriminate summoning of witnesses with no definitive objective in view and in a spirit of meddlesome inquiry.”

Miyares disputes the school board’s claims that the special grand jury will interfere with the operation of LCPS: “This potential interference is entirely speculative, because it is based on school employees’ concern ‘that the Attorney General could issue a witness subpoena,'” and that there is a threat of “the Attorney General potentially entangling LCPS employees.”

According to Miyares, while courts have repeatedly held that it “is no doubt extremely unpleasant to be the subject of a criminal investigation,” it doesn’t cause the irreparable injury that would merit “an injunction against a criminal investigation.”

A Loudoun County Circuit Court judge will hear arguments on whether to grant an injunction in regards to the special grand jury on July 11.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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