VIRGINIA BRIEFING

Friday, July 20, 2007

U.S. COURT OF APPEALS

Longest-Serving Judge Relinquishes Role

The nation's longest-serving federal appellate judge has stepped down as an active member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, leaving it with five vacancies.

Judge H. Emory Widener Jr. took senior status Tuesday, his secretary, Peg Bishop, confirmed yesterday. A man who answered the phone at Widener's house in Abingdon in southwestern Virginia said the judge was unavailable for comment.

Widener told President Bush in 2001 he would take senior status once a successor was confirmed for the Richmond-based court. Bush nominated Pentagon lawyer William J. Haynes II for the seat last year but pulled the nomination in January when it became apparent that the Senate's new Democratic majority would reject him and several other nominees.

Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, one of the court's 10 active members, said Widener's senior status -- a form of semi-retirement for judges 65 and older -- is a milestone.

"Judge Widener is a judge with extraordinary sense of duty who served on active status well into his 80s out of devotion to this court," Wilkinson said.

The 4th Circuit's vacancies -- the most of any federal appellate court -- amount to a third of the slots authorized for the court, which has handled some of the country's biggest terrorism cases. The 4th Circuit covers Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina.

-- Associated Press

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY

Capital Murder Trial Goes to Closing Arguments

A Prince William County Circuit Court judge yesterday scheduled closing arguments for Monday in the capital murder trial of a man charged in three slayings, after the defense rested without calling any witnesses.

Joshua W. Andrews, 25, of Woodbridge is accused of fatally shooting the men in 2001 and 2002 during a month-long series of crimes that stretched from Virginia to New York.

The shootings began Dec. 12, 2001, when Clayton Breeding, 24, of Woodbridge was shot in the parking lot of Rippon Middle School in Woodbridge.

Prosecutors say that on Jan. 2, 2002, Andrews and another man robbed an apartment near Dumfries. Romanno A. Head and Robert I. Morrison, both 22, were fatally shot. A third man also was shot but survived.

Jamel S. Crawford, 28, of Woodbridge, a key prosecution witness, is also charged in the shootings. He is scheduled to go on trial next month, and prosecutors have agreed they will not seek the death penalty in return for his cooperation.

-- Maria Glod

EPA SURVEY

15 Bodies of Water in Va. Selected for Monitoring

Lake Manassas in Prince William County and Lake Anne in Reston are two of 909 lakes, ponds and reservoirs selected to take part in a survey of the nation's lakes by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"The first step of protecting and preserving is monitoring and measuring," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, the EPA's assistant administrator for water. Testing performed by federal and state biologists will help complete a water quality report card with benchmarks to measure progress. The scientists will assess water quality by identifying bacteria and plant and animal life in the water, sediment and shoreline.

Fifteen lakes, ponds and reservoirs were selected for the survey in Virginia and six in Maryland, including Lake Habeeb in Rocky Gap State Park in Western Maryland.

Results of the survey will be published in 2009. The survey is scheduled to be conducted every five years and is part of the EPA's plan to assess the country's rivers, coastal waters, wetlands and streams.

-- Christy Goodman

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