News & Insights

McNally v. Virginia Dept. of Motor Vehicles, Record No. 0816-23-3 (Va. Ct. App. Mar. 26, 2024)

Case Briefs

March 26, 2024

By: Juli M. Porto

Virginia Appellate Law Blog

View Full Article

The Court of Appeals finds no constitutional error in a hearing held pursuant to the State Grievance Procedure.


In 2020, Lawrence McNally became a Senior Special Agent in the DMV’s Law Enforcement Division. Two incidents prompted the DMV to fire McNally for cause. In the first incident, McNally drove his cruiser while on a sedative even though a supervisor had told him not to. While driving, McNally crossed the median and crashed into oncoming traffic. In the second incident, McNally misrepresented to a fire marshal that he was at his home supervising a controlled burn when he was actually miles away at the Ruritan Club.


McNally sought reinstatement under the State Grievance Procedure. After an extensive evidentiary hearing, the DMV’s decision was upheld. On administrative review, the Director of the Department of Human Resources Management (DHRM) found that the decision was consistent with agency policy. Finally, McNally appealed to the circuit court, claiming that the decision was “contradictory to law” because the hearing officer “was biased, improperly restricted cross-examination, and invented facts not supported by the record.” The circuit court rejected McNally’s due process claims, finding that they were only an objection to “factual findings concerning witness credibility and the weight and sufficiency of the evidence.” As such, the rulings were binding on the court and not reviewable. McNally appealed.


But the Court of Appeals agreed with the circuit court. The State Grievance Procedure involves a “tripartite review:” the hearing officer is the “final authority on factfinding,” the DHRM ensures that the hearing officer’s decision is “consistent with policy,” and the circuit court determines whether the decision “contradictory to law.” A constitutionally deficient procedure is therefore reviewable by a circuit court, but the “elaborate statutory grievance procedures” required by the State Grievance Procedure “more than satisfy the minimal requirements of due process.”


To try to get around this, McNally brought an “as applied” due process challenge that the hearing officer failed to follow the procedures “to such an extent that it constitutes a violation of basic due process.” But the Court of Appeals disagreed. It reviewed each of McNally’s claims in turn, finding that McNally failed to articulate a due-process violation. As the Court concluded, “once the procedural-due-process label is removed, McNally’s challenges are nothing more than nitpickings about run-of-the-mill procedural rulings and factual findings by a hearing officer that are not subject to judicial review under the State Grievance Procedure.”


Read the Opinion

Related Attorneys