The promotion of two Circuit Court judges and the retirement of a General District Court judge in Northern Virginia have created a scramble among lawyers and sitting judges for the three judicial vacancies.

Fairfax County Circuit Judge Barbara M. Keenan and Arlington Circuit Court Judge Charles H. Duff will be sworn in today as judges on the newly created, 10-member Virginia Intermediate Court of Appeals.

Their elevation to the new court, whose judges are paid $64,163 a year, leaves Circuit Court vacancies in both Arlington and Fairfax.

In Fairfax, six persons -- three lawyers and three sitting, lower-court judges -- have announced interest in the $62,700-a-year post.

Nine persons -- six lawyers and three sitting judges -- have said they would like the Arlington seat.

In addition, Fairfax County General District Judge G. William Hammer, 62, has announced his intention to retire in July.

Sixteen persons, an unusually high number, have announced their interest in the $56,430 post, which involves sitting in judgment on an often tedious stream of traffic and misdemeanor cases.

Judges in Virginia are formally selected by the state legislature. Behind that selection, however, there is an arcane political process of sifting, voting and lobbying to choose the name ultimately submitted for routine legislative ratification.

In both Arlington and Fairfax, the maneuvering is well under way.

The legislative delegation for each jurisdiction ultimately recommends a candidate for each seat to the legislature, and that recommendation is routinely approved.

The five-member Arlington delegation begins interviewing the nine candidates for the post there today and hopes to complete the process tomorrow.

Those nine all applied to the local bar association for the post, submitted to interviews, were ranked by a bar subcommittee, and then ranked in voting by the members of the Arlington bar.

According to those familiar with the voting, the leading candidates for the post are sitting Arlington Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Andrew B. Ferrari and lawyer Earl E. Shaffer.

Both were unanimously rated "highly qualified" by the bar association subcommittee. Ferrari was first and Shaffer second in the voting, according to bar association sources.

The bar recommendations are not part of the formal selection process, but have over the years become an influential, if informal, part of the process.

"We do rely somewhat on the bar to do a certain amount of screening in terms of legal reputation," said Del. Warren Stambaugh (D-Arlington). "It's highly unlikely that we'll go outside of that list."

The delegation can in theory recommend anyone it wishes for the posts, but routinely selects someone who applied to the bar.

This year, officials say, the Arlington delegation is not interviewing anyone outside the nine screened by the bar.

Four of the six applicants for the Fairfax Circuit Court judgeship were rated by the Fairfax Bar Association's screening committee as "eligible" for the post, and one of those four, lawyer Norman A. West, was recommended for it.

The other three candidates are sitting Fairfax Juvenile and Domestic Relations Judge Thomas A. Fortkort; the popular and well-regarded past president of the bar, Jerry Phillips; and lawyer John J. Karcha, who has sought the seat before.

Officials said the two applicants rated not qualified for the circuit position are both sitting Fairfax General District Court judges, Richard T. Horan and Stewart P. Davis.

The bar membership is scheduled to vote on the relative qualifications of the four rated as "eligible," as well as the 10 lawyers rated "eligible" for the General District Court vacancy, next Monday and Tuesday, and the legislative delegation is set to interview candidates on Jan. 19.