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Virginia Politics
Posted at 04:00 PM ET, 04/05/2011

General Assembly looking to fill two Supreme Court vacancies

The Virginia General Assembly is considering naming former Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark L. Earley Sr. to a state Supreme Court or Court of Appeals judgeship.

Earley is one of 10 candidates who were scheduled to be interviewed by the Senate and House Courts of Justice committees Tuesday to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Leroy R. Hassell Sr. in February. The candidate list will also be used to fill any vacancy on the appeals court created if a sitting appeals court judge is chosen for the state’s highest court.

Earley, a former Republican attorney general, is on the board of of Prison Fellowship, a Loudoun-based group that works with inmates.

Other candidates to fill Hassell’s seat include Judge Cleo E. Powell, the first African American woman named to the Virginia Court of Appeals, and Stephen R. McCullough, a senior appellate counsel with the Virginia attorney general’s office.

The candidate pool is rounded out by Circuit Court Judges Colin Gibb, Michael S. Irvine, Victor V. Ludwig, Clifford R. Weckstein and Gary A. Hicks and attorneys W. Coleman Allen Jr. and S. Thomas Mullins.

The General Assembly hopes to name justices to fill both Hassell’s seat and another opened up by the retirement of Lawrence L. Koontz Jr. before they leave Richmond this week, where they are meeting in a special session to redraw legislative boundaries.

During this year’s regular legislative session, the House of Delegates nominated Appeals Court Judge Elizabeth McClanahan to fill Koontz’s vacancy. The Senate did not appear inclined to nominate McClanahan. But after Hassell’s death, the issue was postponed because it was clear that the General Assembly would be filling two seats, allowing the two sides to try to work out a compromise.

If the two chambers cannot come to an agreement and leave vacancies after adjourning their session, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) is allowed to name justices to serve until the General Assembly returns to Richmond next year.

The legislature also hopes to select a number of local judges, including filling a circuit court vacancy in Alexandria and a district court vacancy in the judicial district that includes Fauquier, Loudoun and Rappahannock.

(Correction note: An earlier version of this story misidentified Earley as the president of the Prison Fellowship. He is its former president, but still serves on the board.)

By  |  04:00 PM ET, 04/05/2011

 
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