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Virginia Politics
Posted at 03:36 PM ET, 07/25/2011

Legislators will elect Supreme Court judges Friday

The General Assembly will briefly return to Richmond on Friday to elect a pair of judges to the Virginia Supreme Court.

The decision Monday came days after Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) urged legislative leaders to either appoint judges or adjourn their special redistricting session so he can appoint them.

The General Assembly, one of only two state legislatures empowered to pick judges, has spent months bickering over how to fill two vacancies on the Supreme Court, leaving the court unable to hear as many cases and forcing it to rely more on semi-retired senior justices.

Clerks of the House and Senate informed legislators that they are to return Friday at 11 a.m. The two chambers are not expected to conduct any other business and will not meet about congressional redistricting, which is in dispute.

The Supreme Court has been short-handed since January, when Justice Lawrence L. Koontz Jr. retired after his 70th birthday, as required by law. Justice Leroy R. Hassell Sr. died in February.

Del. William R. Janis (R-Goochland) said the legislature agreed to fill two slots with Court of Appeals Judge Elizabeth A. McClanahan, the House pick, and the Senate’s pick, Judge Cleo E. Powell, the first African American woman named to the Virginia Court of Appeals.

Janis said legislators will fill the appellate vacancies with Stephen R. McCullough, a senior appellate counsel with the attorney general’s office, and Glen Huff, founder of a Hampton Roads law firm where McDonnell used to work. Both of them are House selections; the Senate had wanted to fill one slot with Kenneth Melvin, a former Democratic delegate who was appointed to the Portsmouth Circuit Court.

Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said Monday that he expected to fill both Supreme Court vacancies and two appellate court slots. But he declined to name the candidates.

Legislators in Virginia can select new judges as long as they are in session — either during the regular annual session, which concluded in February, or in one of the special, shorter sessions convened periodically to address one or two particular issues.

If they adjourn, McDonnell (R) is allowed to name justices to serve until the General Assembly returns for its regular session in January.

By  |  03:36 PM ET, 07/25/2011

 
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