NORFOLK, Va. (CN) – A former Virginia Beach magistrate brought a federal complaint this weekend detailing what she describes as rampant substance abuse and sexual misconduct among court staff.
Karly Cahill filed the lawsuit after her magistrate job — her first job out of law school — ended last year with her unceremonious dismissal for using profanity while making a drunken report to a police officer.
Cahill does not dispute that she was intoxicated but emphasizes in her lawsuit that she was highly emotional, as well as off duty, after having been attacked by a fellow magistrate in her own home.
“If Virginia Beach magistrates were fired whenever they used profanity or were intoxicated, there would be no magistrates left in the office,” she says in the complaint. “Prior to her firing, it was no secret that the prevalent use of alcohol and profanity was common with those employed in the Virginia Beach Magistrate’s Office.”
Michael Donner, an attorney for Cahill with Setliff Law in Glen Allen, said they had no further comment on the complaint, which he said “speaks for itself.”
Filed on Saturday in Norfolk, the complaint says the culture of drug and alcohol abuse in Virginia Beach courts was apparent within weeks of her hiring in summer 2016.
She describes one instance when a fellow magistrate screamed out to her in front of new magistrates-in-training that the reason for her being tired was “being in a Navy Seal’s bed all night.”
Another incident involves a magistrate who became so drunk he “vomited on Ms. Cahill’s arm,” and then grabbed her by the waist and buttocks while she helped get him into a ride share car.
Cahill filed suit after first reporting her allegations to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.
“Ms. Cahill was forced to endure a toxic and hostile work environment in and out of the Virginia Beach Magistrate’s Office while at work and work-related functions due to the Commonwealth’s lack of control and oversight of its employees,” Cahill’s EEOC letter states.
The letter notes that the agency’s investigation was “unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations” of state employment laws, and it “does not certify” Cahill’s complaint is accurate.
Cahill’s complaint names the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Virginia as the defendant in the case. She seeks $600,000 in damages as well as over $14,000 in lost wages.
Neither the Virginia Beach Magistrate’s office, nor the Virginia Supreme Court, has returned a request for comment by press time.
In Virginia, magistrate’s are appointed and wield less power than judges, but they take on similar activities as independent arbiters in civil and criminal matters.