RICHMOND, OCT. 10 -- Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder's attempts to exert more influence over the selection of judges has led to a clash with state legislators, who prize their power to fill judicial vacancies and say they resent the governor's interference.

Wilder irked some Northern Virginia legislators last month by rejecting the delegation's choice to fill a vacancy on the Fairfax County Circuit Court, and this week he announced that he will snub convention by naming two people of his own choosing to openings on the bench in Virginia Beach.

In Virginia, the General Assembly elects judges, but the governor has the power to fill vacancies temporarily during the 10 months annually when the legislature is not in session. Historically, though, such vacancies are left until the General Assembly convenes, or are filled by the governor with an appointment hand-picked by local legislative delegations.

Wilder's press secretary, Laura Dillard, said the governor does not feel bound by such precedents. "He doesn't care about cliques and he doesn't care about perks," Dillard said.

Wilder will ask the advice of the Virginia Beach legislative delegation in filling the vacancies there, just as he did before naming Marcus D. Williams in Fairfax. The Northern Virginia delegation, in a closely divided vote, had recommended Alexandria lawyer Gerald Bruce Lee.

Nonetheless, Dillard said, Wilder also plans to consult with local bar associations, women's groups, and -- anathema to a legislature controlled by Democrats -- members of the Republican Party.

"He can claim that he's opening up the process, but it's really a rebuke to the power of the legislature," said Robert Holsworth, a Virginia Commonwealth University political scientist. "He's very interested in pushing the powers of the governor to the edge of the envelope."

"The constitution clearly gives the General Assembly the prerogative to elect judges," complained state Sen. Dudley J. "Buzz" Emick Jr. (D-Botetourt). "That's a prerogative that we as a legislature ought to guard rather jealously."

Legislators said Wilder's determination to fill the Virginia Beach vacancies -- caused by the retirements of Circuit Court judges Austin Owen and Calvin Spain -- is all the more unusual because the General Assembly will return to Richmond in just three months.

Owen's retirement is effective on Dec. 31, 10 days before the legislature convenes. But by naming a temporary replacement, Wilder ensured that the debate will be over his appointee, not over some other candidate that the General Assembly produces.

"I would very much that we prefer that we fill it ourselves," said Del. Glenn B. McClanan (D-Virginia Beach). "We {the Virginia Beach delegation} are closer to the situation."

Naming temporary appointments is a "well-calculated risk," Holland said. "The last thing the governor wants is to have an {interim} appointment overturned."

But some believe Wilder is inviting trouble with the legislature. While Wilder may think " 'I don't care what those clowns in the General Assembly think,' " said Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan Jr. (D-Mount Vernon), "those clowns have the last word."