Richmond Circuit Court Judge Bradley B. Cavedo has filed a defamation suit against Republican U.S. Senate candidate Daniel Gade, asserting that during an Oct. 3 debate at Norfolk State University Gade falsely accused him of being “a known segregationist” and a “racist judge.”
The suit asserts: “Gade also stated that Cavedo had written that ‘Black people are parasites’ who would suck billions of dollars out of our economy.’ None of these statements are true.”
Cavedo, citing damage to his personal and professional reputation, seeks $2 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages.
Gade’s campaign has said his assertions about Cavedo during the debate were based on a column Cavedo wrote for the University of Richmond student newspaper in 1977.
Gade’s lawyer, Chris Woodfin, said in a statement on Tuesday: “Dr. Gade stands by his statement, and joins prominent members of the Virginia House of Delegates, news reporters, and political organizations in condemning Judge Bradley Cavedo’s offensive comments targeting people of color.”
Gade lost the U.S. Senate race to Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who was elected to a third six-year term. Cavedo’s lawyer, Thomas Albro of Charlottesville, filed the complaint in Albemarle County Circuit Court Tuesday on the day that local registrars around the state were to certify their election results. State elections officials will certify the statewide results on Nov. 16.
Cavedo, a Richmond Circuit Court judge for 18 years, initially blocked Gov. Ralph Northam’s plan to take down the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue. In July, Cavedo recused himself from cases related to the Lee statue because his home is in the Monument Avenue Historic District.
During the debate, Gade criticized Warner for appointing Cavedo to the bench as governor in 2002.
In the signed 1977 column, Cavedo, editor of the paper’s editorial page, criticized President Jimmy Carter’s instant voter registration plan, saying it would “allow the parasites of this nation to become the dominating force in politics.”
Referring to Cavedo, Gade said to Warner during the debate: “He said that Black people are parasites and he said they would suck billions of dollars out of our economy, and yet you appointed him anyway, so don’t preach to me about what I need to say. You need to talk about your own actions.”
Cavedo did not specifically mention Blacks in the column or attack the concept of desegregation. But he criticized what he called a “massive” court-imposed busing plan that he said “nearly wrecked” his high school education.
Warner appointed Cavedo to the judgeship in July 2002. The General Assembly first elected him the next year and has elected him twice more.
Asked about Gade’s characterization, Cavedo said in an Oct. 5 email: “I am going to decline to respond to this appalling and disgusting lie.”
Gade’s lawyer, Woodfin, said in the statement Tuesday: “Judge Cavedo’s words in the University of Richmond newspaper speak for themselves and as a public servant his words and actions are held to the highest standard.”
Cavedo’s suit says Gade’s remarks were broadcast in Virginia, Tennessee and Maryland and that recordings were subsequently viewed thousands of times on social media.
It says Gade’s campaign Twitter account repeated his assertions in a tweet the day after the debate.
The suit says “Gade’s false and defamatory statements damaged Cavedo’s personal and professional reputation by attributing to him racist views and conduct that would be unacceptable in any profession.”
The suit “seeks redress for the damage Cavedo suffered and will suffer as a result of the publication of Gade’s false and defamatory statements which subjected him to undeserved scorn, embarrassment, humiliation and contumely as a resident of Richmond, Virginia.”
The suit asserts that “Cavedo is not, and has never been, a racist.” It says Gade’s remarks are “especially damaging to Cavedo because he sits in a position of authority as a Circuit Court judge in Richmond, a city with a majority Black population.”
Cavedo’s lawyer, Albro, said the judge will not conduct media interviews before the case is resolved. The suit says that on Oct. 15, counsel for Cavedo told counsel for Gade that the candidate’s remarks were “false and defamatory” and requested that he retract them.
Albro said in a statement Tuesday: “It is regrettable that Mr. Gade ignored readily available facts and leads that, if acknowledged or pursued, would have informed him that his planned remarks regarding Judge Cavedo’s political views and past statements were false.
“The political division within our country is made worse by the false and inflammatory rhetoric used by Gade during his debate with Senator Warner on October 3, 2020.”