Defense attorney challenges Gomez’s standing

Oct 09, 2015   

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By Jonathan Austin (Daily News Staff)
October 8, 2015

ST. THOMAS – A federal drug case against four individuals in the District Court of the Virgin Islands has taken on more meaning as one of the defense attorneys moved to have a judge disqualified because he has served more than the 10 years the lawyer says is allowed by law.

Attorney Joseph DiRuzzo III represents Tamisha McBeam, one of four defendants indicted on charges of selling and distributing marijuana and money laundering.

DiRuzzo filed a motion Sept. 30 arguing that District Judge Curtis Gomez should be disqualified because “District Court of the Virgin Islands judges serve 10 year terms,” and Gomez has served on the bench since at least April 25, 2005.

“Judge Gomez’s 10-year term has expired, and absent another constitutionally compliant appointment, his tenure and attendant rulings in this case are constitutionally under attack,” DiRuzzo’s motion states.

DiRuzzo cited several cases that say federal judges serving in the Virgin Islands are appointed for terms of 10 years, and not for life, as other federal court judges are.

“The Senate authorized a 10-year tenure that cannot be legally extended” without violating U.S. Code and the Constitution, DiRuzzo argued in his motion.

The U.S. Attorney has responded with a counter-motion dated Oct. 5, in an effort to dismiss DiRuzzo’s motion.

U.S. Attorney Ronald Sharpe argued that the Revised Organic Act of 1954 says that judges appointed to the District Court of the Virgin Islands “shall hold office for terms of 10 years and until their successors are chosen and qualified, unless sooner removed by the president for cause.”

Sharpe wrote that DiRuzzo’s argument is “contrary to the provisions of the United States Code and the Revised Organic Act.”

Attorney Russell Pate, who represents Demincia Dore, another of the defendants in the case, filed a motion on Sept. 30 to join the McBeam motion to have Gomez disqualified from the case.

Both DiRuzzo and Pate note that their motions are not attacks on Gomez’s character.

“The undersigned finds Judge Gomez to be a fine and capable jurist,” DiRuzzo wrote. “If anything, this motion is an indictment of the currently dysfunctional political situation in Washington that has confirmed federal judges at one of the slowest rates in history.”

Pate concurred in his motion.

“The honorable Curtis V. Gomez is an exemplar jurist, and the lack of certainty regarding term limits and re-nomination as a federal judge is unfair both to the judge and office itself.”

– Contact Jonathan Austin at 714-9104 or email jaustin@dailynews.vi.