Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) said this week’s impasse over judicial appointments reiterates the need for a new selection process.
“It proves the point I have been trying to make for years, which is that we need to change the way we select judges,’’ Bolling said in an interview. “Every time you see this ridiculous impasse, the horse trading that goes on, it’s just all proof again that we need to change the way judges are selected.”
The Virginia General Assembly, one of only two state legislatures empowered to pick judges, spends significant time each year bickering over judges. This week’s disagreement left the Virginia Senate at a standstill Tuesday, with members prevented by procedural rules from voting on any legislation or even conducting committee meetings until the matter was resolved.
Bolling, who presides over the Senate and is running for governor in 2013 against Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), said he supports creating a bipartisan judicial selection commission. As a senator, he introduced a bill that would have created a commission, but it failed.
“I don’t favor electing judges because that has problems of its own,’’ Bolling said. “The way it’s done right now isn’t working. There’s too much horse-trading. Too often it results in impasse. There’s got to be a better way.’’
In most states, voters elect judges or the governor appoints them, either making choices outright or nominating candidates who must be confirmed by the legislature, according to the American Judicature Society.
Virginia and South Carolina are the only states where legislatures pick judges. In Virginia, the state constitution requires the General Assembly to select judges, but there is no formal process.
Bolling attributed this week’s problem to “a lot of miscommunication” but he blamed Democrats, and said he hopes they will elect two new judges Thursday— former delegate C.L. “Clay” Athey Jr., a Republican from Warren, and former delegate Clarence E. “Bud” Phillips, a Democrat from Dickenson.
“If the Democrats’ position remains we’re not going to elect any incumbent judges, that’s a huge disservice,’’ Bolling said. “I hope they won’t take that position. That is an indefensible and irresponsible position.”
Bolling announced this month that he believes he can vote on organizational matters, but not the budget and certain other matters, including judicial elections. He said an impasse Thursday should not prevent business from proceeding in the Senate.