Can you stand one more post about our, ah, unique political situation here in Virginia Beach?
How about if I promise not to mention the name of the vanquished city councilman causing all of the trouble and refer to him simply as SL, the Sore Loser? And if I promise not to write about it again until the trial next month?
All right then.
As this curious story has unfolded I’ve exchanged emails with a retired friend in another part of Virginia with an extensive background in law. He seemed intrigued and warned me not to dismiss (SL’s) claim out of hand. Keep in mind that one may be a resident in more than one place but residence and domicile are two different things.
I responded: “What bothers me is that (SL) could have raised this issue any time between May and November. He didn’t. Because he probably believed the presence of David Nygaard in the race helped him. To raise this issue after he lost seems disingenuous...If there isn’t a principle in law that says you can’t wait to raise a legal issue until it’s convenient, there ought to be. That’s just common sense.”
Ah ha, he wrote back. You get an “A.” Go to the head of the class, because you have raised the equitable doctrine of “laches.” By the way, the common sense in the law provides that you can’t sit on your remedy until it’s too late, and prejudicial to your adversary!
I never went to law school. I never heard of laches, so I headed to an online legal dictionary. In layman’s terms it suggests that you can’t diddle around with your rights and ambush someone with them later.
“The doctrine of laches is based on the maxim that 'equity aids the vigilant and not those who slumber on their rights'." (Black’s Law Dictionary)
As soon as Nygaard filed his campaign paperwork in May, the issue of whether the candidate lived in the Beach district was debated widely. It was on TV, Facebook and in The Virginian-Pilot.
On Aug. 10th The Pilot published, “Virginia Beach Council Candidate Disputes Claim That He’s Not Living In His Campaign District.”
Three days later my old colleague, Roger Chesley, wrote a column about Nygaard and the residency question.
On Oct. 4th the Pilot ran another story “Residency Complaint Against Virginia Beach Candidate Is Unfounded Commonwealth’s Attorney Says.”
It’s inconceivable that SL didn’t know about the controversy. Yet he never raised it, never attempted to get Nygaard off the ballot as R.K. “Rick” Kowalewitch did.
The reason is simple: Every incumbent prays for multiple opponents.
But SL was so unpopular even three others In the race couldn’t save him.
One month after he lost, SL filed a lawsuit saying Nygaard never lived in the district, should be disqualified and he should be crowned councilman.
The trial is set for Feb. 21 and 22.
SL could have brought this up last summer. He didn’t. He waited until after the election he never expected to lose.
In a written statement to The Pilot after he filed his lawsuit, SL implied that the residency question was new to him.
"Soon after the election, I received numerous calls from citizens concerning whether Mr. Nygaard's residency satisfied the legal requirements for a district council member,” he wrote.
Laches, baby. It’s just common sense.