Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Jane Marum Roush was appointed Monday to the Virginia Supreme Court by Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in a recess appointment that bypassed the often politically charged selection process of the General Assembly.
Roush’s appointment ends a five-year period in which no judges from the state’s most populous jurisdiction were on either of the state’s appeals courts. She is the first Fairfax judge selected to the seven-member Supreme Court since Barbara M. Keenan in 1991. Keenan became a federal appeals judge in 2010. No judge from Fairfax has sat on the 11-member Virginia Court of Appeals since 2006.
“I know at times like this it’s appropriate to quote one of the Founding Fathers, perhaps Thomas Jefferson,” Roush said in remarks at a ceremony in Richmond. “Nevertheless, I think golfer Bubba Watson best captured my feelings here this morning when, upon winning his first Masters, he said, ‘I can’t really say this is a dream come true, because I have never had a dream go this far.’ ”
Roush, 58, has been on the Fairfax circuit bench since 1993 and presided over the trial of D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo. On the Supreme Court she will replace the other “sniper judge,” LeRoy F. Millette Jr. of Prince William County, who presided over John Muhammad’s trial at the same time as Malvo’s trial in the fall of 2003.
Millette announced his retirement in April, giving McAuliffe the opportunity to make a recess appointment to the vacancy, rather than allow the General Assembly the opportunity to elect a new justice, a process often criticized for its secrecy and political maneuvering. Roush must still stand for election when the legislature convenes again, but longtime observers said the General Assembly has never unseated a Supreme Court justice once the justice has taken the bench.
In announcing his selection, McAuliffe said Roush emerged after a rigorous six-week search and interview process.
“I wanted to find someone of the highest caliber. someone who was respected by the judicial community, the legal community, the folks who are involved in our legal process,” the governor said. “I also wanted to find someone who the General Assembly would immediately say, ‘That is a great pick.’ I wanted to find someone who was apolitical. Someone who’d be known by their record, what they had done in other areas of the law.”
Roush grew up in Fairfax County, the fourth of five children of an elementary school principal and a Justice Department lawyer. She attended St. Leo’s Elementary and Middle School in Fairfax City and Oakton High School in Vienna, earned her bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and her law degree from the University of Virginia. She has been married 36 years and has three grown children.
After 12 years practicing mainly business law at the firms that became McGuireWoods and Hogan Lovells, she was elected to a Fairfax bench lacking in business experience and women. Although the criminal bar was wary of a judge whose only experience was a summer internship at the prosecutor’s office in Philadelphia, she established herself as tough and independent and eventually became one of the most popular judges in the courthouse.
In one criminal ruling that was upheld by the Virginia Supreme Court, she ruled that under state law, prosecutors do not have to give police reports to defense lawyers. In another case, she ruled that nurse examiners who specialize in sexual assault cannot give an opinion on whether a rape occurred, which defense lawyers have said has had wide impact. In 2012, she sentenced a 16-year-old who had abducted, molested and stabbed a 5-year-old Springfield girl to more than 100 years in prison.
The Supreme Court has also selected her to handle tough cases in other jurisdictions where local judges have recused themselves, such as a complex mining case in Buckingham County and the triple-murder case in Alexandria involving Charles Severance. She will have to step down from that case when she moves to the Supreme Court on Aug. 1.
The Fairfax members of the General Assembly from both parties joined in a letter to McAuliffe endorsing Roush, calling her “one of the premier judges in all of Virginia. . . . Judge Roush is non-political, and most importantly, she knows that a judge applies, not writes, the law.”