With the begrudging approval of a Republican representative from Roanoke, a dispute over how many new federal judgeships Virginia can expect ended quickly last week in the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.
Assuming favorable action by the full House and settlement between House and Senate conferees on new judgeships elsewhere, the committee action should ensure the addition of four new judgeships in the state, probably next year.
That would represent the largest addition to the federal bench at any one time in recent Virginia history and is likely to set off intense maneuvering over who gets the jobs. Each position pays $54,500 a year and is alifetime appointment.
The last question over the number of Virginia judgeships vanished when Rep. M. Caldwell Butler (R-Va.), who had lost earlier efforts to add only one new judgeship in the western half of Virginia agreed to a move to add a second new judgeship there. Earlier, in a move that had the two Virginians on the committee quarrelling, Rep. Herbert E. Harris, a Northern Virginia Democrat has won approval of a one-time appointment of a second judge in the western judicial district.
Butler said he relented because he did not approve of new judgeships being made on a "temporary" basis. "What I did, I did to clean up the mess they (the committee majority) created," he said.
Since a previously approved Senate judgeship bill also calls for four new Virginia judgeships, the House committee action probably ends debate over how many new judges should be added in Virginia, Butler and a Harris aide agreed.