Virginia Briefing

Virginia Briefing

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Circuit Judge Is Chosen for State Appellate Court

Prince William County Circuit Court Chief Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. was selected yesterday by the General Assembly to join the state Court of Appeals, making him the third African American to sit on the appellate court.

The appointment, bypassing a Latino Leesburg lawyer favored by minority bar groups, means the state's "courts of record" -- circuit courts or higher -- will remain without any Hispanic judges.

Alston, 51, became a circuit judge in 2001 and was reappointed to that post three weeks ago by the legislature. He did not submit to any pre-screening bar interviews for the appellate court opening created by the retirement of Jean Harrison Clements of Loudoun County. He became a candidate for the post last week, the night before the candidates were interviewed by the legislature's Courts of Justice committees.

Three other circuit court judges, a county prosecutor and Leesburg lawyer Alexander N. Levay Jr. did submit to screening. If Levay had been chosen, he would have become the only Hispanic judge among 175 circuit, appeals and supreme court judges in the state. But the House Republican caucus and Senate Democratic caucus agreed on Alston yesterday, making him the fourth person in recent years to bypass pre-screening and be selected for the appeals court.

-- Tom Jackman


Correspondents Hall of Fame Inducts Ex-Post Writer

Former Washington Post reporter Robert H. Melton was inducted yesterday into the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association Hall of Fame, which honors journalists who excelled in coverage of state politics and government.

Melton, 51 , started at The Post in 1982 and worked as a reporter and editor on the National and Metro staffs for 21 years.

In 2002, Melton uncovered an eavesdropping scandal involving Republican officials listening in on Democratic conference calls among legislators and then-Gov. Mark R. Warner. Also that year, Melton's reporting led to the resignation of then-House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr. (R), who was accused of paying a woman $100,000 to cover up his unwanted sexual advances.

Melton, who lives in Richmond, retired in 2006.

Melton and the late James H. Latimer, who worked for the Richmond Times-Dispatch from 1937 to 1991, compose the inaugural Hall of Fame class. Their names will be enshrined at the press room at the State Capitol in Richmond.

-- Tim Craig

Senate Approves Bill to Ban Ticket Fraud on VRE

Legislation outlawing the use of fraudulent tickets on local commuter trains passed the Virginia Senate on Tuesday.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Linda T. "Toddy" Puller (D-Fairfax), addresses a gap in the law that did not prohibit people from producing and using a fraudulent or counterfeit ticket on Virginia Railway Express. Under the proposal, which now heads to the House of Delegates, violators would be fined $500 to $1,000.

VRE officials said bogus tickets are an "increasing problem." They estimate that at least 35 people were producing fraudulent tickets last year, costing the company almost $116,000. Although VRE took five riders to court over the issue, judges overturned the cases because there was no law to address the issue.

"Fares make up about 60 percent of VRE's total operating budget," VRE spokesman Mark Roeber said. "When people cheat the system, it forces the state and local governments to make up for the lost revenue."

-- Jennifer Buske

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