Taylor v. Davis, Record No. 020923.

Decision Date28 February 2003
Docket NumberRecord No. 020923.
Citation265 Va. 187,576 S.E.2d 445
CourtVirginia Supreme Court
PartiesRandolph TAYLOR v. Richard A. DAVIS, et al.

Steven D. Rosenfield (Janice L. Redinger, on brief), Charlottesville, for appellant.

Helen E. Phillips; Jonathan T. Wren (Martin & Raynor, on briefs), Charlottesville, for appellees.


LEROY R. HASSELL, SR., Chief Justice.

In this appeal, we consider whether a plaintiff in an attorney malpractice action pled a cause of action against his former criminal defense attorneys who represented him in criminal proceedings.

Plaintiff, Randolph Taylor, filed his motion for judgment against Richard A. Davis and Althea B. Hurt. Plaintiff alleged the following facts in his motion. On July 4, 1997, plaintiff "was arrested [in Albemarle County] and charged with a violation of [Code] § 46.2-301, driving a moped on a suspended license, a class 1 misdemeanor" even though a moped is "specifically exempted from the statute, [Code] § 46.2-301; thus driving a moped on a suspended license was not a crime in Virginia."

The Circuit Court of Albemarle County appointed defendant Davis to represent plaintiff for that purported offense. Plaintiff alleged that he advised defendant Davis that plaintiff was lawfully permitted to drive a moped even though plaintiff's license had been suspended. Plaintiff also alleged that Davis did not perform "any legal research on the issue, and failed to raise any defense to the criminal charge, including the statutory exemption."2

At the conclusion of a bench trial, the circuit court found plaintiff guilty as charged in the summons. The court entered an order dated May 18, 1998 that sentenced plaintiff to confinement in jail for a term of 60 days and ordered him to pay a fine in the amount of $100 and court costs. Plaintiff's license to operate a motor vehicle on the public highways of this Commonwealth was suspended for a term of six months.

The Circuit Court of Albemarle County appointed Althea Hurt to represent plaintiff in the event he decided to appeal the judgment. Plaintiff alleged in his motion for judgment that he contacted Hurt "to discuss his appeal and his understanding of the moped exemption contained in [Code] § 46.2-301." Plaintiff further alleged that despite his representations to Hurt that he was legally permitted to drive a moped even though his driver's license had been suspended, Hurt advised plaintiff that he was incorrect, that he had no appealable issue, and "that there was no need to appeal." Plaintiff alleged that Hurt did not perform "any legal research on the issue" and that he "acceded to ... Hurt's advice."

Subsequently, plaintiff filed a "motion to reopen and dismiss" in the Circuit Court of Albemarle County. Plaintiff asserted in his motion that he was wrongfully convicted of a violation of Code § 46.2-301 because, pursuant to Code § 46.2-301(B), the phrase "motor vehicle or any self-propelled machinery or equipment" did not include mopeds. He asserted that, therefore, he was permitted by statute to drive a moped even though his license had been suspended. The Commonwealth's attorney endorsed the plaintiff's motion.

The Circuit Court of Albemarle County entered an order that "reopened" the case and dismissed "the criminal charge upon which [plaintiff] was convicted." The court directed the clerk "to take appropriate steps to correct the public records regarding this dismissal and to refund to ... Taylor, all fines and court costs heretofore paid. Furthermore, Mr. Taylor's privilege to drive taken by this Court pursuant to the original conviction is void ab initio."

Plaintiff also alleged that as a result of the defendants' negligent acts and omissions, he sustained a wrongful conviction, incarceration, monetary losses, and other damages.

The defendants filed demurrers and asserted, among other things, that plaintiff failed to plead a cause of action for attorney malpractice because he failed to allege that he obtained post-conviction relief as required by this Court's decision in Adkins v. Dixon, 253 Va. 275, 482 S.E.2d 797, cert. denied, 522 U.S. 937, 118 S.Ct. 348, 139 L.Ed.2d 270 (1997). The circuit court entered an order that held that plaintiff could not proceed because he failed to plead that he had obtained post-conviction relief. Plaintiff appeals.

In Adkins, we considered whether a plaintiff, in an attorney malpractice case, who had been convicted of numerous felonies, was required to plead in his motion for judgment that he had successfully obtained post-conviction relief. At a preliminary hearing during the underlying criminal proceedings, the general district court found sufficient cause to certify ten felony charges relating to Jeffrey S. Adkins' alleged commissions of armed robberies, abductions, unlawful wearing of a mask, and sexual offenses. Subsequently, a grand jury returned indictments against him on the ten original charges and on six additional felony charges arising from the same incident. The circuit court fixed the trial dates for Adkins, who had been incarcerated on the ten original charges since his arrest. Adkins filed a pro se motion to dismiss all 16 charges based upon asserted violations of the speedy trial provisions of Code § 19.2-243. The circuit court denied Adkins' motion and, at separate jury trials, he was convicted of all charges and subsequently sentenced to punishments of two life sentences plus 45 years.

Adkins' counsel filed an appeal to the Court of Appeals and asserted speedy trial violations limited to the convictions resulting from the ten original charges. The Court of Appeals agreed with Adkins, reversed the judgments of convictions, and discharged him from further prosecution of those ten charges. Adkins' counsel appealed to this Court and raised the speedy trial defense to the six additional charges for the first time, and we denied the appeal for that reason.

Subsequently, Adkins filed a motion for judgment...

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13 cases
  • Smith v. McLaughlin
    • United States
    • Virginia Supreme Court
    • February 26, 2015
    ...the legal malpractice plaintiff must prove post-conviction relief and innocence entitling him to release. Taylor v. Davis, 265 Va. 187, 191, 576 S.E.2d 445, 447 (2003) ; Adkins v. Dixon, 253 Va. 275, 281–82, 482 S.E.2d 797, 801–02 (1997). Pursuant to these principles, after hearing testimon......
  • Mooney v. Frazier
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • April 1, 2010
    ...(1993); Moore v. McComsey, 313 Pa.Super. 264, 459 A.2d 841 (1983); Peterson v. White, 877 S.W.2d 62 (Tex.App.1994); Taylor v. Davis, 265 Va. 187, 576 S.E.2d 445 (2003); Powell v. Associated Counsel for Accused, 125 Wash.App. 773, 106 P.3d 271 (2005). See Watson v. Pieszak, 98 Conn.App. 333,......
  • Jones v. Link, 1:07CV360.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia
    • June 25, 2007
    ...(i) "that he has obtained postconviction relief" and (ii) that he was "actually innocent" of the crimes charged. Taylor v. Davis, 265 Va. 187, 191, 576 S.E.2d 445 (2003) (citing Adkins v. Dixon, 253 Va. 275, 482 S.E.2d 797 (1997)); Ostrander v. Joynes, 46 Va. Cir. 518, 1997 WL 33642555 (199......
  • Morant v. Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, P.C., HHDCV166067801S
    • United States
    • Connecticut Superior Court
    • August 7, 2018
    ...that he sought and obtained post-conviction relief." The plaintiff, however, fails to quote important language in the court’s reasoning in Taylor. In Taylor, the Supreme Court Virginia stated that Taylor was distinguishable from Adkins v. Dixon, supra, 253 Va. 275 because the plaintiff in T......
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