The lawsuit filed in Arlington County Circuit Court last week against Missing Middle housing comes at a conspicuous time for land-use litigation.
Shortly after the County Board approved 2-6 unit buildings in heretofore single-family home zoning districts, the Virginia Supreme Court overruled a zoning overhaul in Fairfax County on procedural grounds in Berry v. Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County.
The decision demonstrates the courts are watching local governing bodies for procedural violations in its policy-making. People following Berry say this decision was somewhat unusual and could give the Arlington plaintiffs stronger footing — though a victory is far from guaranteed.
When the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the changes in March 2021, local governments operating under Covid-era emergency rules could only take action on time-sensitive matters — such as the budget — in virtual meetings, explains Megan Rhyne, Executive Director of the Virginia Coalition of Open Government.
Three months after the decision was approved, state laws were expanded to allow local public bodies to discuss or vote on topics, like zoning, virtually. But the Virginia Supreme Court forced Fairfax to revert to an older zoning code because of this procedural misstep prior to the new laws taking effect.
The 10 plaintiffs in the Missing Middle suit say it is a point in their favor, arguing the state Supreme Court signaled it takes seriously procedural violations.
The suit alleges six ways the decision violated state law, including some procedural errors regarding how the meetings were conducted and how the policies under consideration were poorly explained and distributed. Additionally, the plaintiffs allege one instance where rights under the Freedom of Information Act were violated.
“These are hard cases to win. They’re not often won but we just had one that was a big surprise to a lot of people,” says Kedrick Whitmore, a land-use attorney with Venable, who has represented developers on numerous Arlington projects but is not involved in the Missing Middle suit. “Maybe it’s not as open and shut as you would normally see for challenges.”
Despite the possibly far-reaching consequences of Berry, it seems to have only slowed down Fairfax. The county is already restarting the process to overhaul its zoning code.
A common blueprint
State law says zoning codes serve a variety of purposes, including to reduce congestion, provide for public safety and ensure that natural lands are preserved. The law says officials only have to “give reasonable consideration” to these and other purposes, however.
In practice, this kind of standard can make it difficult for plaintiffs to allege a locality made substantive missteps. Thus, plaintiffs suing over an unpopular decision may find more success alleging procedural and FOIA violations, according to Whitmore and Rhyne.
“Local governments in Virginia are afforded extraordinary deference by the courts and legislation,” Whitmore said. “That makes the substantive road difficult and that’s why procedural might be most effective.”
Rhyne agrees, particularly as it relates to Freedom of Information Act allegations.
“It’s not unusual for a FOIA meeting violation to be alleged after an unpopular decision. Sometimes it’s true — sometimes it has been a violation — but sometimes it hasn’t,” she said.
“While it’s common to take that route, it’s uncommon for it to undo anything,” she continued, making Berry a “super rare” decision.
In the Arlington lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege the county did not post online all the meeting materials that the Planning Commission and Arlington County Board had access to, including a method Board Chair Christian Dorsey would later introduce, which the Board approved, for temporarily apportioning permits based on zoning district.
But the bar for public access requirements under FOIA is fairly low, according to Rhyne. Governments meet the provision if the public is given materials at the same time members of the government receive them, she said.
“If everybody is getting it at the same time, in-person, it’s not useful but it met FOIA,” Rhyne said. “FOIA doesn’t require meaningful time to digest what’s been given.”
This is a finer point than in Berry, which ruled for the plaintiffs because the March 2021 vote occurred when the law did not allow such decisions to be made using virtual-only meetings. This could limit how much Berry applies in Arlington, Rhyne said.
The plaintiffs, however, take a broader view of the principles at stake in Berry.
“Literally the day after the Board enacted densification and changes that are the focus of this suit, the Court reaffirmed the importance of statutory guardrails by invalidating Fairfax County’s zoning overhaul on procedural grounds,” the suit says. “In so doing, the Court affirmed that compliance with Virginia Code’s procedural requirements is not optional.”
The plaintiffs have made no statements about the case and did not wish to comment for this article, an attorney for them told ARLnow. Outreach about the case has been conducted by an LLC formed by residents, “Arlington Neighbors for Neighborhoods,” in the form of a press release last week. The LLC is also raising money to fund the litigation.
Can the plaintiffs even sue?
The first tack Arlington County will take will be to argue the harms these plaintiffs claim they face are not specific to them and thus they do not have “standing” to file a suit, according to Whitmore.
“You could argue that this affects everyone in Arlington County,” he said. “What standing does is it requires plaintiffs to show they have particularized harm.”
The county told ARLnow it cannot comment on ongoing litigation, but it has taken this general approach before, when it sued some residents and the Ballston-Virginia Square Association. The county petitioned the court to find the residents would not experience particular harm from a decision to temporarily park Arlington Transit buses nearby.
Another recent state Supreme Court decision indicates this is not a slam-dunk strategy for municipalities, though. The Virginia Supreme Court in February overturned a lower court ruling that found residents suing Hanover County over a Wegmans distribution center built in their historically Black neighborhood did not have standing.
A judge wrote that “standing determines who may file a lawsuit — not who can win one. Winning and losing depends on judicial fact-finding and discretion,” a local TV station reported.
Here, Whitmore says the plaintiffs have made efforts to show “they have been or will be harmed in some different particular fashion differently than the ‘every man’ of Arlington.”
All 10 plaintiffs say they will be hurt by higher tax assessments. Each argued how many of the general criticisms levied during the public process — from crowded streets to higher flood risks — represent unique harms for them.
One of the plaintiffs is Marcia Nordgren, who was active in anti-Missing Middle discourse on Nextdoor and published a letter to the editor in the Gazette Leader lambasting the Board and previewing some of the grievances in the lawsuit.
The suit says Nordgren’s neighbor can build Missing Middle homes by-right and she cannot challenge it because the property is under one acre. Others in her neighborhood can challenge developments near them because they need special permits to build such structures on their properties larger than one acre.
Margaret Fibel, who urged the County Board in March to update its infrastructure capacity before making the zoning changes, says Missing Middle development in her neighborhood would result in more street parking and congestion than in other places.
In her area, close to two Metro stations, developers will not have to provide as much on-site parking, meaning her already-crowded street will see even more street parking, she says.
The suit says the following about their plight and that of the eight others.
By singling out these Residential Districts without providing for adequate infrastructure and neighborhood-specific development, the Residents will suffer a particularized harm not applicable to the public generally in the form of increased traffic and parking, intensified stormwater runoff and sanitary sewer use and volume leading to flooding and sanitary sewer backups, tree canopy diminution, and prohibitively expensive tax assessment increases.
Zoning change proponents react
ARLnow previously reported the statements issued by two groups opposed to the zoning changes, Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future and Arlingtonians for Upzoning Transparency, on Friday. They both said they were not involved but watching the proceedings closely.
Afterward, proponents of the change disputed the idea that the county confused residents in its communications.
“This lawsuit claims improper notification and that people were confused, didn’t know what was going on,” said Missing Middle supporter Pastor Ashley Goff in a tweet. “Housing advocates knew EXACTLY what was going on which is why we pushed so hard for the change. Zero confusion on our end.”
Meanwhile, Grace White, Arlington Vice President of the pro-housing group YIMBYs of NOVA, told ARLnow this week that the organization is not fazed by the suit.
Missing Middle is an important yet incremental change that was approved unanimously by the county board after years of study, public comment, and deliberation. YIMBYs of NOVA is concerned at the moment with building on the policy to ensure better housing options for all Arlingtonians. We invite opponents of Missing Middle to join us in spending their efforts advocating for solutions, rather than challenging the validity of a duly enacted law in court.
(Updated at 1:35 p.m. on 4/26/23) A group of residents has filed a lawsuit in Arlington Circuit Court alleging the zoning changes called Missing Middle are illegal.
The residents say Arlington County ran afoul of state law by rushing through the changes without considering impacts on infrastructure and community resources — a frequent criticism of the years-long policy discussion.
Last month, the Arlington County Board approved changes to the zoning code allowing up to six-unit dwellings on lots previously zoned only for single-family homes. The Board did approve a set of limitations intended to control the pace and impact of development, including parking minimums, permit caps and tree planting requirements.
According to “Arlington Neighbors for Neighborhoods,” a group that issued a press release on behalf of the plaintiffs, that was not enough.
“State law requires that zoning ordinances consider needs for transportation, schools, parks, recreation, and public spaces, as well as the conservation of natural resources,” the statement said. “The law also requires consideration of a locality’s comprehensive plan, which addresses stormwater, sanitary sewer, water distribution and more.”
The group said the lawsuit claims Missing Middle — also referred to by the county as “Expanded Housing Options” or EHO — is “arbitrary and capricious and bears no reasonable relationship to public health, safety, morals or the general welfare, as required by state law.”
(In addition to issuing a press release, Arlington Neighbors for Neighborhoods “has raised funds to support the litigation,” an attorney for the plaintiffs told ARLnow.)
Their lawsuit says the county also violated state law the following ways:
- The zoning amendment process was not initiated by a proper Planning Commission motion or County Board resolution
- The zoning amendment was not properly advertised
- The EHO cap is a special exception to the zoning regulations and requires County Board review of applications
- The County Board failed to share with the public documents that were furnished to it about EHO
- The county violated the Dillon rule by knowingly requiring a number of shade trees that exceeds what Virginia allows localities to impose
Their petition asks the Circuit Court to declare that the zoning amendments violate state law and prevent the county from issuing EHO permits.
The allegations that the County Board violated Virginia Freedom of Information Act laws may require a hearing in the coming days, said another anti-Missing Middle group, Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future (ASF), in an email newsletter today.
“There will likely be other hearings in the coming months,” ASF said. “Then, of course, there may be appeals. Any complaint in a lawsuit consists of allegations which must be proven in court, and challenging zoning is surely an uphill battle.”
ASF noted that the FOIA allegation resembles a successful lawsuit against Fairfax County that led to the overturn of zoning changes it made two years ago. Last month, the Virginia Supreme Court declared the county’s 2021 zoning modifications void because the new code was adopted at a mostly virtual meeting.
One of the Fairfax County plaintiffs even advised Arlington residents in a post on Nextdoor to file a lawsuit.
“Sue them,” she said in response to a post musing about recalling the Arlington County Board. “We just won our lawsuit… it took two years, but it was worth it.”
In response, two residents pointed out that her victory was on procedural grounds due to how the meeting was conducted.
“It will likely pass again, with in-person public hearings and votes,” said one Donaldson Run resident. “Congratulations, you’ve succeeded in wasting taxpayer dollars and time.”
All three candidates looking to replace Sheriff Beth Arthur, who retired at the end of last year, say they want to end solitary confinement.
This unifying policy position surfaced during a forum hosted by the nonprofit Offender Aid and Restoration last Thursday.
Arlington County police officer James Herring, retired sheriff lieutenant Wanda Younger and Acting Sheriff Jose Quiroz are seeking the nomination of the Arlington County Democratic Committee in the June primary.
Although unified on running a “safe and progressive” jail, including by ending solitary confinement, they had different plans for improving the physical safety and mental well-being of staff and inmates.
“We’re definitely going to remove [solitary confinement],” said Quiroz, the son of Honduran immigrants who grew up in Arlington and joined the Sheriff’s Office 21 years ago after a stint in the Marine Corps. “We’re already reviewing this. It’s not helpful, it’s not healthy and it’s not rehabilitative. It needs to go.”
Herring, a graduate of Arlington Public Schools who was a police officer in D.C.’s Ward 8 before joining the Arlington County Police Department in 2019, said there are better alternatives to the practice.
“There are going to be people who will have to be separated from others because they just will not work well for whatever reason — they might have to be separated for safety reasons — but we absolutely cannot put people in holes and forget about them,” he said. “We need to connect them to mental and medical health care and keep them connected with family.”
Younger, who retired from the Sheriff’s Office after 31 years of service, said solitary confinement exacerbates mental health issues rather than contributing to an individual’s rehabilitation.
“What we need to do is focus on programs to help identify the root causes of why people act in certain ways,” she said, calling for training in trauma-informed care and in understanding common triggers of negative behaviors.
They articulated positions ARLnow previously reported on, regarding well-being in the jail, which saw seven men die while in jail. Six of the inmates were Black, which led the Arlington branch of the NAACP to push for greater transparency from the office and changes to jail operations.
Quiroz says he is bringing in biometric sensors that allow staff to respond to medical emergencies “where seconds and minutes count” and interested in the county assuming control of medical care.
ACSO ditched its former contracted medical care provider in response to a growing number of deaths in the jail, and one inmate has died since the new provider took over.
Herring argued for adding in-house psychiatrists to the existing ranks of therapists and clinicians.
“We still have to ship people across the state to actually see a psychiatrist who does not know them, their community, where they’re from or what their issue is,” he said. “Oftentimes they just load them up with meds and send them back here until they’re tranquilized enough… to carry on, and the cycle repeats.”
Drug use intervention programs for youth are in short supply in Arlington County, according to people who help youth with substance dependencies.
The need is particularly acute for younger teens, as the onset of exposure to and abuse of drugs is trending younger, National Capital Treatment and Recovery Clinical Director Pattie Schneeman said in a recent panel.
“‘There’s nothing out there for adolescents.’ I hear it all the time,” says Schneeman, acknowledging that National Capital Treatment and Recovery, formerly Phoenix House, stopped serving children in 2015 because insurance reimbursements did not cover operating costs.
“If you have money, you can send someone to a posh program. You can pay for services,” she continued. “But if you are average, middle-class or a low socioeconomic family, you have no resources, and it is very sad and devastating to our communities.”
Arlington is seeing a rise in youth obtaining and using opioids, with an increasing number overdosing both on and off school grounds — or effectively detoxing in the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center in Alexandria. In some cases, they are prescription, but in many others, they are buying illegally manufactured pills laced with the deadly drug fentanyl, from local gangs or through social media, police say.
The death of 14-year-old student Sergio Flores after a fatal overdose at Wakefield High School has driven teachers, parents and School Board members to call for more action and support from APS and Arlington County. Conversations since then have revealed the barriers throughout the continuum of care to actually treating kids.
For instance, school-based substance abuse counselors can only educate — they cannot provide treatment, according to School Climate Coordinator Chip Bonar, while appropriate treatment options can have a months-long waitlist. The division of the Arlington County Dept. of Human Services that works with children and behavioral health has 43% of its job positions unfilled and acknowledges there are few residential substance use treatment options.
It will be at least two years before VHC Health — formerly Virginia Hospital Center — opens its planned rehab facility. Two years is a long time, however, considering that less than a month passed between the death of Flores and a near-fatal teen overdose Wednesday.
To beef up treatment options, and expand services in the nearer term, Arlington is turning to settlements with manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies it alleges have been key players in the opioid epidemic. Just last week, the Arlington County Board agreed to participate in a proposed settlement against Teva, Allergan, Walmart, Walgreens, CVS and their related corporate entities.
The Board voted to approve the settlement in an unannounced vote at the end of a lengthy meeting.
“This is the latest in a series of settlements that are part of the larger National Opioid Settlement,” said county spokesman Ryan Hudson. “The total funding awarded to the County from these agreements continues to evolve as more settlements are finalized. All opioid settlement funding will be used on approved opioid abatement purposes.”
(Updated at 11 a.m.) Arlington County is suing three residents and the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association over their attempt to stop buses from being parked near their homes.
The county charges that they used the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) process improperly to prevent the approval of a special use permit to allow 29 Arlington Transit (ART) buses to park on a county lot across the street from Washington-Liberty High School while a new ART bus facility is built in Green Valley.
The county says the BZA doesn’t have the authority to hear their case and, without an allegation of harm or potential harm not shared by their neighbors, the residents are not “aggrieved parties” and are thus improperly using the appeal process to block the county’s plans.
“The Applicants sought their appeals simply as a way to undermine the County Board’s authority and to prevent the County Board from approving a special exception use permit for the Subject Property, thereby weaponizing the stay required by Va. Code… and in effect usurping the legislative power of the County Board,” per the lawsuit.
But the residents, who live in two of the five homes on a ridge overlooking the parking lot, argue the county is suing them preemptively while running afoul of its own zoning ordinances. Further, they say the bus activity will seriously undercut their property values and quality of life and suggest the county should buy their homes.
The lawsuit says that one resident’s BZA appeal asked the body to “compel the County Board to purchase some of the Applicant’s properties.”
Both the county and the residents declined to comment to ARLnow on the ongoing lawsuit, set for a hearing in Arlington County Circuit Court later this month.
Arlington County bought the largely industrial site, also known as the Buck site after its previous owner, in 2015 for $30 million to serve a variety of needs.
Arlington Public Schools parked “white fleet” vans there and, as part of an agreement in 2022, the county moved the vans from a part of the site zoned for “light industrial” uses to another zoned for “mixed use,” and park the ART buses in the “light industrial” zone.
This violates an ordinance, a site plan and a deed of covenant governing the property dating to 1985, the civic association alleged in a letter to the County Board in May 2022. The letter says county staff made procedural and substantive missteps that should have invalidated the county’s special use permit application and subsequent action to abandon the right-of-way of a former street on the site.
The civic association alleges that this change came after the county already violated zoning ordinances related to parking and landscaping by conducting motorcycle maneuvering training and storing dumpsters in parking areas while, in landscaped areas, letting trees die and English ivy take over.
As for the new use, they say the noise is unbearable, emissions from the Compressed Natural Gas-powered buses are “toxic,” and vibrations shake nearby homes — leading to their properties becoming “unmarketable” and “uninhabitable.” The BVSCA posted the following video of an ART parking exercise on the site last year.
Residents say the county’s real estate office proposed reducing their property assessments by up to $190,000 and heard from four realtors who say they’d be reluctant to list these properties.
(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) A local civic association says a lawsuit may be imminent over the infamous pickleball pop.
In a recent community newsletter, Old Glebe Civic Association leaders detailed their displeasure with the county ending a pilot program that closed a popular standalone pickleball court at Glebe Road Park earlier this year.
The program was initially enacted as a means to mitigate the noise of the loud pop sound produced by a pickleball hitting a paddle that was bothering some close-by neighbors, primarily those who live on a dead-end block near the courts.
The OGCA called that pilot program a “compromise” since it also looked to appease players by restriping a nearby tennis court for pickleball so there were now four courts, as opposed to the previous three. But with the program now being “abandoned,” the newsletter says, “the noise issue has become more contentious.”
The county has since proposed another pilot program that would reopen the standalone pickleball court but with limited hours and surrounded by a “noise reducing fence,” a spokesperson with the Department of Parks and Recreation tells ARLnow.
However, the OGCA opposes any reopening of the pickleball court and wrote that if the county doesn’t find a better way to mitigate the noise, legal action might be taken.
“We hope that a new compromise can be reached before affected parties turn to law courts for resolution of the issue, as has happened repeatedly in other cities throughout the country,” the newsletter reads.
Pickleball has exploded in popularity over the last several years in Arlington. It has prompted players to ask the county for more courts — which the county is now expected to deliver after a bond referendum including $2 million for pickleball has passed.
The impact of the sport’s rise has not sat well with everyone, though. The crowds and noise — particularly the loud pickleball pop — at certain local courts have bothered some surrounding neighbors. This includes those who live near Glebe Road Park.
“The noise from pickleball has become a major problem for residents of nearby houses — particularly those living on the section of Tazewell Street off of 38th Street,” reads the OGCA newsletter. “Some of the houses are only 135 feet from a ‘stand alone’ pickleball court; the noise from the court reverberates across the amphitheater-like terrain downhill to Tazewell Street and can be heard distinctly (and constantly) inside the houses.”
These concerns are not unique to Arlington, with the county looking to other jurisdictions to figure out how best to broker a pickleball peace. The initial pilot program, which ran from April to early September, closed down the pickleball court closest to the houses, but also added two more courts to the park by restriping a tennis court.
While the county “learned a lot” from the pilot, it didn’t paint a “full picture” about the best way forward, a county official told ARLnow.
“Over the last several months tennis and pickleball players, despite some inherent conflicts, have adjusted to sharing the two multi-use courts at Glebe Park. The courts have been very busy,” DPR spokesperson Martha Holland said. “Throughout the duration of this pilot, we have heard from park users and neighbors alike about the need to reopen the stand-alone court and to allow for pickleball plus other recreational options (soccer, fitness workouts, etc.).”
So, in response, the county is instituting a “Phase 2” pilot program that will keep the striping on the park’s tennis courts and install a “noise reducing fence” on three sides of the standalone court.
“The side of the court that touches the basketball court will not be wrapped, for safety reasons. Once the fence is up, DPR will reopen the court and monitor its use,” said Holland.
In addition, the court will be available via a reservation system and the court lights will be turned off at 10 p.m.
Another Arlington Resident on Jeopardy! — Local attorney Luigi de Guzman will be a contestant on Jeopardy! on Friday, with host Ken Jennings. He’s the latest in a line of Arlington residents who have appeared on the long-running TV quiz show. [Instagram]
County May Be Sued By Contractor — “It looks like a raging dispute over payment for a now-completed major upgrade to Arlington’s Benjamin Banneker Park will be headed to court. Arlington County Board members on July 19 rejected a claim from McDonnell Landscape Inc., seeking reimbursement for costs totaling just under $995,000 for work it says was done as part of its contract to upgrade the park but it has not received. County Manager Mark Schwartz earlier had offered to settle the matter for $272,000, an attorney for the firm said, but that was turned down.” [Sun Gazette]
Baseball Tourney Now Underway — “Led by host team Arlington Post 139, the eight-team American Legion Virginia state baseball tournament is scheduled to begin this afternoon, July 26 in Arlington, with games at Barcroft Park’s Tucker field and Wakefield High School… Those eight teams all are scheduled to play again on July 27 at the two fields. The tournament continues through Friday, July 29, with the championship game scheduled for 4 p.m.” [Sun Gazette]
Local Man Charged in Alexandria Abduction — “A 29-year-old Arlington man faces a jury trial next month for allegedly robbing and assaulting his disabled ex-girlfriend in her West End apartment. The suspect has been held without bond in the Alexandria jail since his arrest on February 8. On February 1, a week before his arrest, the suspect allegedly forced his way into the woman’s apartment and removed her from her wheelchair, according to a search warrant affidavit.” [ALXnow]
It’s Wednesday — Rain early in the morning then cloudy throughout the day. High of 85 and low of 72. Sunrise at 6:07 am and sunset at 8:26 pm. [Weather.gov]
Photo courtesy Curt Cultice
The Arlington County Detention Facility has implemented several measures in response to the death of an inmate in 2020.
The jail has hired a quality assurance manager, planned to buy a new medical tracking device and has updated health check protocols, according to a document that summarizes corrective measures it has taken.
A wrongful death lawsuit filed by Darryl Becton’s family alleges that medical staff at the Arlington lockup did not treat and properly monitor Becton’s drug withdrawal symptoms or high blood pressure, despite being aware of his condition and the risks associated with it.
The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office took a number of preventive measures following the death. One was a special directive to instruct staff to place all inmates self-reporting or expecting to experience withdrawals in the Medical Unit of the jail, according to the summary document obtained by ARLnow.
The office also hired a quality assurance manager in April, whose job is to oversee all contractors providing medical, food, phone and other services to people held in custody. Cristen Bowers is currently the manager, according to a press release.
The jail cut ties with its medical provider Corizon in October 2021 and signed a new contract with Mediko that was finalized in February.
Other actions taken include directing staff to check the vitals of those going through withdrawals every four hours instead of eight. The office is also planning to buy a medical device system that will “track heart rates and alert workstations” if an inmate’s heart rate is abnormal. The office plans to have the purchase funded in during the current fiscal year, which runs through next July.
These actions led Virginia’s Jail Review Committee, part of the Board of Local and Regional Jails, to conclude that “no further measures are necessary” and close its investigation into the Arlington jail last month. Its investigation has found evidence suggesting the Arlington jail had broken state regulations in Becton’s death, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
However, not all of the jail’s remedial actions were made public. Two policies made in the immediate aftermath of Becton’s death are redacted in the summary obtained by ARLnow, with the Sheriff’s Office stating disclosure “would jeopardize the safety or security” of law enforcement officers, the public and buildings.
The Times-Dispatch requested documents from the board related to the investigation and the corrected action plans but release of the action plans were denied, and other documents provided were redacted, according to the Times-Dispatch. The board’s executive director told the paper it wanted to “protect the ‘privacy’ of people who die in jails, and their families.”
In response, Becton’s family, who is suing the sheriff and Corizon, along with individual Sheriff’s Office and Corizon employees, called for the board to release the details of its decisions and the jail’s corrective action plan, according to a statement from NAACP’s Arlington branch.
By not publishing its suggestions for improvement with the public or “the larger jailed and incarceration community,” the board is “not allowing transparency in the process,” Becton family’s attorney Mark Krudys told ARLnow.
He says the family did not know about the content of the board’s investigation or the jail’s action plan.
The Becton family’s lawsuit has now moved to U.S. District Court upon a request from Sheriff Elizabeth Arthur and a deputy who was also sued, according to a docket report. In October 2021, a Corizon nurse was charged with falsifying patient records by the Commonwealth’s Attorney Office. The criminal case is still ongoing.
Despite the corrective actions, another Arlington jail inmate died in custody this past February. Of the seven people to have died in custody at the jail over the past seven years, six have been Black, according to the NAACP.
Man Convicted of Crystal City Shooting — “A convicted murderer has been found guilty on four charges for shooting and wounding his ex-girlfriend in her Arlington, Virginia, office in 2019. Mumeet Muhammad forced his way into the woman’s office, in the 1500 block of Crystal Drive in Crystal City, and shot the woman on Aug. 28, 2019. Muhammad also was shot by police.” [WTOP]
Body Found Near Roosevelt Island — “A death investigation was underway Wednesday after a body was found in the Potomac River, D.C. police said. Authorities said the body was found in the water between Teddy Roosevelt Island and the Virginia shoreline under the footbridge pedestrians use to access the island… Officials with knowledge of the investigation said the body was heavily decomposed.” [NBC 4, Twitter]
GW Parkway Chase Leads to Lawsuit — “A D.C. police captain sued the District on Tuesday, alleging he was retaliated against after trying to stop a high-speed pursuit last month that ended with a car overturning on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, causing injuries and bringing rush-hour traffic to a halt.” [Washington Post]
Task Force: Expand County, School Boards — “Increasing the size of the Arlington County Board and School Board by at least two members is among the recommendations of the Arlington County Civic Federation’s task force on local governance, which on April 12 delivered the first of what are expected to be two sets of proposals to be voted on by the organization in June.” [Sun Gazette]
PSA: Steer Clear of River Near Chain Bridge — From D.C. Fire and EMS: “The river knows no boundaries. All this holds true for the District. One slip off the rocks can lead to a fall into a deceptively calm looking river actually laden with treacherous currents and hidden rocks that quickly pull you under. Especially the case around Chain Bridge.” [Twitter]
Lease Change Scores Big Bucks for County — “Arlington County Board members on that date voted 5-0 to support a change in technical aspects of the lease that guides the relationship between the county government, which owns substantial parcels in the Courthouse area, and the developer JBG Smith, which holds ground leases and owns the buildings on some of those very same parcels… By making the changes, which staff say carry little risk to the county government or taxpayers, the Arlington government coffers would receive somewhere in the area of $10 million to $12 million in a one-time payment from JBG Smith.” [Sun Gazette]
ARLnow Article Confuses Chicago Suburbanites — From the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Police Department: “The incident was reported by Virginia news outlets with the headline ‘Barricade situation in Arlington Heights.’ News reports were then shared on social media using the #ArlingtonHeights. We understand this created some confusion and concern for our residents. The Arlington Heights Police Department would like to clarify the above incident occurred in Arlington County, Virginia.” [Facebook]
It’s Thursday — Rain and storms in the afternoon and evening. Southwest wind 11 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 31 mph. High of 76 and low of 59. Sunrise at 6:34 am and sunset at 7:45 pm. [Weather.gov]
The family of a man who died in Arlington County jail in 2020 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit blaming his death on willfully negligent care by the county and nurses.
Darryl Becton, 46, died in the Arlington County Detention Facility on Oct. 1, 2020. A state coroner determined he died of hypertensive cardiovascular disease, which is caused by sustained high blood pressure, complicated by opiate withdrawal.
The $10-million lawsuit filed in Arlington County Circuit Court names Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur, the elected official who oversees the jail and the Sheriff’s Office, and Corizon Correctional Health, the jail-based medical provider at the time, as defendants. Four medical staff, including one who was arrested in connection to Becton’s death, and a sheriff’s deputy are also named.
The Sheriff’s Office declined to comment. Corizon did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.
Becton, a D.C. resident, was booked on Sept. 29, 2020, on an alleged probation violation following his conviction on a felony “unauthorized use of a motor vehicle” charge in 2019.
The lawsuit says his death two days later — after succumbing to symptoms of heroin and fentanyl withdrawal and untreated high blood pressure — “was wholly avoidable.”
The lawsuit claims Becton told staff when he was booked that he had an opiate addiction and high blood pressure. These became obvious, the suit says, in the early hours of Oct. 1, when his blood pressure registered 191/102 — which would require immediate medical attention — and he began experiencing withdrawal symptoms, including vomiting, nausea, body aches, tremors and diarrhea.
The lawsuit alleges that, despite his obvious illness, medical staff did not properly address his withdrawal symptoms nor treat him for high blood pressure, while deputies assigned to periodically check in on him did not take note of his worsening symptoms.
“From 6 a.m. until 4:16 p.m., he was essentially left uncared for, untreated and alone,” said Mark Krudys, the attorney for the family during a noon press conference outside the jail today (Friday). “He was being casually monitored by the nursing and outright ignored by correctional staff. This did not have to occur. People don’t die from these conditions if they’re taken to medical [facilities] and receive the medical care they need.”
This is not the first time Corizon has been sued for inmate deaths allegedly connected to inadequate care. And Becton’s death, combined with the arrest of one nurse possibly connected to Corizon, prompted the county to cut ties with the provider and select a new provider, Mediko.
The lawsuit also alleges Becton was denied his civil rights in not receiving adequate medical care.
Many family members were present gave emotional tributes to Becton at the press conference.
His cousin, Janae Pugh, said it is every family’s “worst nightmare” to hear that a family member has died in the custody of people who are supposed to “protect and serve” the community.
“To stand here before you and expose my family’s suffering and pain is heartbreaking but very necessary,” she said. “The people in charge need to be held accountable for these preventable deaths. We are here today to seek justice and bring awareness to Darryl’s case.”
(updated at 5:30 p.m.) In a win for a number of local school boards, the Arlington County Circuit Court has issued a temporary injunction preventing Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin from banning mask mandates in schools.
The ruling came late Friday afternoon, after an emergency hearing that was held on Wednesday (Feb. 2).
As was discussed in the courtroom, the final ruling will come down to if Gov. Glenn Youngkin, even with emergency powers, has the ability to override local school boards’ decisions given to them in Senate Bill 1303. The court ruled today that the argument has merit so issued a temporary injunction allowing schools to continue their policies.
In response, Arlington County Public Schools issued a statement on behalf of all the involved school boards. It reads in part:
“The School Boards of Alexandria City, Arlington County, City of Richmond, Fairfax County, Falls Church City, Hampton City and Prince William County are pleased with the temporary injunction granted today by the Arlington Circuit Court. The order allows schools to continue to protect the health and well being of all students and staff. While the legal process on this matter continues, today’s ruling preserves the existing policies and practices in Virginia school divisions, which includes masking requirements.”
The judge writes the case rests on the issue of authority, She finds Gov. Youngkin’s Execuive Order, issued through his emergency powers, can’t override school district policy. pic.twitter.com/PCKTt9yO55
— Julie Carey (@JulieCareyNBC) February 4, 2022
On Jan. 15, the day after his inauguration, Youngkin issued an executive order banning mask mandates in Virginia schools. Days later, he was sued by seven state school boards including by those in Arlington, the City of Alexandria and Fairfax County.
The lawsuit claims that the executive order is in violation of the Virginia Constitution that gives individual school boards the authority to supervise public schools. The suit also alleges that the order violates Senate Bill 1303, signed into law last March, that requires schools to offer for in-person learning while following CDC guidance and applying “any currently applicable mitigation strategies” to reduce the transmission of Covid.
“Without today’s action, school boards are placed in a legally untenable position — faced with an executive order that is in conflict with the constitution and state law,” the Arlington Public Schools press release said about bringing the lawsuit. “Today’s action is not politically motivated. These seven school divisions would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the governor to ensure the safety and welfare of all students.”
Another hearing will be set in regards to a permanent injunction.
Opinion Pages 1-4 pic.twitter.com/SfjRJZA6BL
— Karl Frisch (@KarlFrischFCPS) February 4, 2022
The full APS statement is below.