Sometimes new things do happen in the tradition-steeped Old Dominion. Barbara M. Keenan of Fairfax County has been chosen as the first woman to sit as a Circuit Court judge in Virginia.

Keenan, 31, was elected by the General Assembly to fill the vacancy created when James C. Cacheris resigned in December to become a federal district judge in Alexandria. Now a judge of the Fairfax County General District Court, Keenan will be one of nine judges on the Circuit Court serving Fairfax County, Fairfax City and Falls Church.

The General District Court primarily handles traffic cases and misdemeanor crimes, while the Circuit Court considers major lawsuits and felonies.

Keenan had been one of three candidates, two of them women, considered for the vacancy.

A judge of the General District Court since 1980, Keenan received her bachelor's degree from Cornell University and her law degree from George Washington University. From 1974 to 1976 she was an assistant commonwealth's attorney for Fairfax County.

The General Assembly also elected Arlington Circuit Judge Charles S. Russell to the Virginia Supreme Court, replacing the retired Albertis S. Harrison Jr., a former Virginia governor. In electing Russell, the legislature ratified an earlier action by its dominant Democratic caucus.