Judge reinstates suspended Rockingham County attorney
Suspended Rockingham County Attorney James Reams was reinstated by a judge on Thursday, but the legal battle over his suspension is expected to continue at the state Supreme Court. (JAMES A. KIMBLE/FILE PHOTO)
Despite the court's decision, Reams, an eight-term Republican from Hampton, will not be able to immediately return to the job.
The high court will also have to decide whether to keep McNamara's order from going into effect while it considers whether the attorney general had the legal right to suspend Reams' prosecutorial duties.
"The attorney general overstepped his bounds," Ramsdell said.
He predicted on Thursday that state prosecutors will now try to delay litigating the suspension so that Reams will effectively be kept off the job until his term expires in January 2015.
McNamara said in the 13-page order it became clear on Monday that the removal proceedings against Reams could not happen prior to his elected term ending, resulting in a de-facto removal from office.
He also criticized the state for not bringing forward the removal complaint until March 11.
Associate Attorney General Jane Young said that the state remains committed to expediting removal proceedings and other court action against Reams.
Young said McNamara's decision might now give prosecutors the option to seek an injunction to prevent Reams' reinstatement.
Attorney General Joseph Foster reviewed McNamara's decision on Thursday, and maintains that he has the legal authority to suspend Reams' prosecutorial authority based on civil complaints alleging misconduct in office, according to Young.
State prosecutors will ask the state Supreme Court to prevent McNamara's order from going into effect while it takes up the bigger legal question concerning the attorney general's authority to suspend county attorneys.
"It's a question of how soon can a reinstated Jim Reams get back," Ramsdell said.
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