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Three-Judge Court to hear Town of Durbin vs Michael Vance

Jaynell Graham
The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia issued an Administrative Order Friday designating and appointing the Honorable Paul M. Blake, Jr., Judge of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit; the Honorable Jack Alsop, Judge of the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit; and the Honorable H. L. Kirkpatrick, III, Judge of the Tenth Judicial Circuit; as a three-judge court to be convened April 9, 2021 to take all actions necessary and authorized by West Virginia Code in the case the Town of Durbin vs Michael Vance.

The case stems from Durbin Town Council’s December 9, 2020 Resolution For Removal of Mayor, which alleges that “Michael Vance, in the course of his performance of the duties of the office of Mayor of the Town of Durbin and specifically during a properly noticed and convened public meeting of the Town Government, did commit upon Steve Diaz, an attendee at such meeting, an assault whereby Michael Vance did … unlawfully commit an act that placed another in reasonable apprehension of immediately receiving a violent injury… in violation of West Virginia Code, §61-2-9b…

The resolution states that “upon the majority vote of the members of the Durbin Town Council, Michael Vance is hereby removed from the office of Mayor of the Town of Durbin.”

A preliminary hearing was held February 11, 2021 in Pocahontas County Circuit Court, wherein Vance asked that the matter be dismissed.

The case, with Robert P. Martin, counsel for the Town of Durbin, and Paul S. Detch, counsel for Vance, was heard telephonically and via remote technology.

The court, after hearing arguments from defense counsel involving four challenges to the resolution, then heard arguments from DTC’s attorney in opposition to the motion to dismiss.

The court denied the motion to dismiss and ordered that a copy of the Durbin Town Council Resolution be forwarded to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, with a request that a three-judge court be appointed to hear the case.

The Supreme Court of Appeals found that the request from the Honorable Judge Robert E. Richardson was warranted and proceeded to establish the three-judge panel.

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