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Partisan Battle Shaping Up Over Judicial Picks

Virginia Del. Harvey B. Morgan (R-Gloucester) at a House session. By midnight, the legislature must confirm two judges appointed by the governor, or they will lose the jobs. Republicans are threatening to block the nominees unless the GOP can fill two other posts.
Virginia Del. Harvey B. Morgan (R-Gloucester) at a House session. By midnight, the legislature must confirm two judges appointed by the governor, or they will lose the jobs. Republicans are threatening to block the nominees unless the GOP can fill two other posts. (By Bob Brown -- Associated Press Via Richmond Times-dispatch)

In an interview Thursday, Kaine said that both of his appointments were "spectacular" and that they had proven track records on the bench. He said they were not political appointees.

"I'm certainly doing a lot of talking to both houses," he said. "There isn't any reason for any disagreement to intrude upon two people that all agree are well qualified."

The General Assembly does not have a formal way of picking judges, although it vets candidates. "Ideally, what we need to do is work out the process," said Sen. Ken Cuccinelli II (R-Fairfax), a member of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.

In recent years, the Republican majorities in the House and Senate got together and agreed on names. But even when they ran both chambers, they often fought about nominees. This year, the disagreements are partisan and could influence other issues.

The Democrats took control of the Senate in November, but Republicans kept their majority in the House.

Democrats "need to understand -- we still control the House," said House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem).

Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) have talked about the possibility that Goodwyn and Millette will not be confirmed. Saslaw declined to discuss his talks with Howell.

"We've gotten along well, but we haven't had any collisions yet," Saslaw said last week. Referring to the dispute over judges, he said, "Probably there is about to be one."

Howell said House and Senate leaders have had good conversations.

"We think we ought to have a say-so in the two other statewide judges. They're trying to say no, you don't have a say-so in that either," Howell said. "They'd like to have all four of them. We're trying to be fair about it."

Staff writer Sandhya Somashekhar contributed to this report.


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