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After Spat, Senate Will Consider New Judges Later

February 6, 2012

By Amir Vera
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Former legislators C.L. “Clay” Athey and Clarence “Bud” Phillips will have to wait a bit before they are appointed as judges in Virginia.

That’s because Democrats in the Senate recently rejected Republicans’ plan to name Athey and Phillips as new judges while reappointing 47 incumbent judges.

Democrats like Sen. Donald McEachin of Richmond insisted that the Senate abide by the tradition of considering new judges separately from incumbents. They did not want to make exceptions just because the two new judges up for appointment were former colleagues.

“We thought it ill-advised to have them get vacant judgeships when we have not looked at the complete picture of vacant judgeships,” McEachin said. “On top of that, we told the Republicans two or three days beforehand that we thought it best to keep with the Senate practice in dealing with incumbent judges only in January.”

According to the Democrats, that is how it has always been done: Incumbent judges usually are reappointed in January; new judges are confirmed in late February.

Republicans wanted to appoint the two new judges because the empty seats on the bench create problems in the judicial system.

“So there remain two vacancies that are unfilled and need to be filled,” said Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Montross. “They are having to use substitute judges to run those courts, which is a bad thing.”

The dispute was over House Joint Resolution 246, which contains all of the judgeship appointments.

The House unanimously adopted the resolution on Jan. 24. But when it went to the Senate, Democrats there objected – and effectively shut down the Senate for a few days.

The impasse was broken on Jan. 26 when, at the Democrats’ insistence, the Senate agreed to appoint only the incumbent judges for now.

The Senate will take up the nominations of Athey and Phillips after Feb. 14, which is “crossover day” – the deadline for each chamber to complete work on its own legislation.

Athey, 51, is a Republican attorney from Front Royal who served in the House of Delegates from 2002 through 2011. He represented House District 18 in the Shenandoah Valley. He was nominated to be a judge for the 26th Judicial Circuit in Harrisonburg.

Phillips, 61, is a Democrat attorney from Castlewood who served in the House from 1990 through 2011. He represented House District 2, which at the time was located in the far southwest corner of Virginia. He was nominated to be a judge for the 30th General District Court in Wise.

In refusing to consider new judges in January, Democrats maintained that they were upholding tradition. But Republicans accused them of playing partisan politics. They said the Democrats were flexing their muscles because, for the first time, the Senate is evenly divided between the two parties.

“I was shocked that the Democrats refused to appoint judges, and they specifically said it was because they were unhappy with the Republicans for not agreeing to a power-share,” Stuart said.

McEachin said the Democrats were able to stand their ground against the Republicans. He said that in insisting on the appointment of both incumbents and new judges, Republicans were “acting with a certain level of arrogance, that it was their way or the highway.”

“So we showed them that we were prepared to go on the highway,” McEachin said. “I am happy that they relented and returned to the traditions and practices of the General Assembly by electing the incumbent judges separately apart from new judges.”

HJ 246 has been referred to the Senate Committee for Courts of Justice.

Incumbent Judges Who Were Re-appointed

Circuit Court judges:
Judge W. Allan Sharrett, 6th Circuit, Greensville County/Emporia
Judge Michael S. Irvine, 25th Circuit, Alleghany County/Covington
Judge Malfourd W. Trumbo, 25th Circuit, Alleghany County/Covington
Judge Lon E. Farris, 31st Circuit, Prince William County/Manassas

General District Court judges:
Judge Gordon S. Vincent, 2A Judicial District, Northampton County/Eastville
Judge Roxie O. Holder, 3rd Judicial District, Portsmouth
Judge S. Clark Daugherty, 4th Judicial District, Norfolk
Judge Richard C. Kerns, 7th Judicial District, Newport News
Judge Philip V. Daffron, 12th Judicial District, Chesterfield
Judge Thomas L. Vaughn, 12th Judicial District, Chesterfield
Judge L. Neil Steverson, 14th Judicial District, Henrico
Judge John R. Stevens, 15th Judicial District, Fredericksburg
Judge Stewart P. Davis, 19th Judicial District, Fairfax
Judge Lisa A. Mayne, 19th Judicial District, Fairfax
Judge Donald P. McDonough, 19th Judicial District, Fairfax
Judge Mark C. Simmons, 19th Judicial District, Fairfax
Judge J. Frank Buttery Jr., 20th Judicial District, Loudoun County/Leesburg
Judge George A. Jones Jr., 22nd Judicial District, Pittsylvania County/Chatham
Judge Vincent A. Lilley, 23rd Judicial District, Roanoke County/Salem
Judge Joseph M. Serkes, 24th Judicial District, Lynchburg
Judge Louis K. Campbell, 25th Judicial District, Botetourt County/Fincastle
Judge W. Dale Houff, 26th Judicial District, Shenandoah County/Woodstock
Judge J. D. Bolt, 27th Judicial District, Wytheville
Judge R. Glennwood Lookabill, 27th Judicial District, Radford
Judge Sage B. Johnson, 28th Judicial District, Washington County/Abingdon

Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court judges:
Judge Deborah M. Paxson, 2nd Judicial Circuit, Virginia Beach
Judge Winship C. Tower, 2nd Judicial Circuit, Virginia Beach
Judge Joel P. Crowe, 3rd Judicial Circuit, Portsmouth
Judge William P. Williams, 4th Judicial Circuit, Norfolk
Judge Robert S. Brewbaker Jr., 5th Judicial Circuit, city of Franklin
Judge Barry G. Logsdon, 7th Judicial Circuit, Newport News
Judge Valentine W. Southall Jr., 11th Judicial Circuit, Powhatan
Judge Ashley K. Tunner, 13th Judicial Circuit, city of Richmond
Judge Margaret W. Deglau, 14th Judicial Circuit, Henrico
Judge Denis F. Soden, 14th Judicial Circuit, Henrico
Judge Richard S. Wallerstein Jr., 14th Judicial Circuit, Henrico
Judge Edward DeJ. Berry, 16th Judicial Circuit, Charlottesville
Judge Frank W. Somerville, 16th Judicial Circuit, Charlottesville
Judge Gayl Branum Carr, 19th Judicial Circuit, Fairfax
Judge Glenn L. Clayton II, 19th Judicial Circuit, Fairfax
Judge Thomas P. Mann, 19th Judicial Circuit, Fairfax
Judge Sarah A. Rice, 22nd Judicial Circuit, Danville
Judge Joseph P. Bounds, 23rd Judicial Circuit, city of Roanoke
Judge John B. Ferguson, 23rd Judicial Circuit, city of Roanoke
Judge Charles L. Rickets III, 25th Judicial Circuit, Augusta County/Staunton
Judge Ronald Lewis Napier, 26th Judicial Circuit, Page County/Luray
Judge H. Lee Chitwood, 27th Judicial Circuit, Pulaski

This CNS article was published by FairfaxTimes.com.