Archives

THE NEWS DESK

The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.

Share
RSS feed of this blog

New judge for 15th Circuit

RICHMOND—The overworked 15th Judicial Circuit will get a new circuit judge after state lawmakers voted Wednesday to pay for it.

Legislators also voted to elect judges to a number of vacant seats in judicial districts around the state.

The 15th Circuit includes Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania, Caroline, King George, Westmoreland and Northumberland counties.

The circuit has a per-judge caseload 42 percent above the state average. During the regular legislative session, the House approved a bill to add a judge to the district, but the Senate rejected it.

Gov. Bob McDonnell revived the proposal in his budget amendments. State lawmakers were in session Wednesday to deal with his amendments and vetoes to bills from the regular session.

Several senators opposed McDonnell’s amendment to add a new judge, pointing out that the state has paid for a broad study of the judicial system and judge caseloads statewide, which is due to be finished later this year.

“We have resisted creating new judgeships,” said Sen. Tommy Norment, R-James City County. Creating one prior to the report’s finalization, he said, “makes no sense to me.”

Norment asked the Senate to reject the amendment, saying it would be more appropriate to add a new judge next year.

But other senators disagreed.

“It’s desperately needed,” Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Stafford, said of the new judge.

Stuart is an attorney who practices in the 15th circuit. He said current judges have such a high caseload that civil cases get put off in favor of criminal ones and some people can sit in jail for five months waiting for a trial.

Sen. Don McEachin, D-Henrico, agreed. Also an attorney, he said he sometimes practices in the 15th. He had a personal injury case that waited two years for a trial date, he said.

Sen. David Marsden, D-Fairfax, said the 15th district has “explosive growth” that means its always behind the staffing levels it needs.

There was some question over additional McDonnell amendments to provide support staff for the new judgeship — two deputy sheriffs and a deputy clerk.

Legislators said that the state compensation board has its own policies on how it allots new staffing capabilities, and the compensation board’s formulas wouldn’t necessarily put the new staff in the 15th circuit.

McDonnell’s budget amendments also proposed filling 11 other judgeships that had been frozen to save money several years ago. Legislators have slowly been unfreezing them gradually.

The budget approved by lawmakers in February authorized filling 20 of those vacancies; with McDonnell’s additional 11, the vacancy rate would be reduced to 4.5 percent, said Senate Finance committee staff.

Judicial appointments are frequently controversial and those filled Wednesday proved no different, with a behind-closed-doors dispute over which judgeships to fill that lasted past midnight.

Lawmakers not only voted for the new judgeship, they elected a judge to fill it: Judge Patricia Kelly of Caroline, who has been a Juvenile and Domestic Relations judge in the district.

McDonnell’s budget amendments also proposed filling 11 other judgeships that had been frozen to save money several years ago. Legislators have slowly been unfreezing them gradually.

The budget approved by lawmakers in February authorized filling 20 of those vacancies; with McDonnell’s additional 11, the vacancy rate is reduced to 4.5 percent, said Senate Finance committee staff.

Judges elected Wednesday night to fill vacancies in the 15th Circuit included:

 Judge Michael E. Levy of Stafford, filling a circuit court vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Martin Bass

 J. Bruce Strickland of Stafford, filling the General District Court vacancy created by Levy’s election to the circuit court

 Hugh S. Campbell of Hanover, filling a General District vacancy caused by the mandatory retirement of Judge Peter L. Trible

 Joseph A. Vance IV of Fredericksburg, filling a Juvenile and Domestic Relations court vacancy caused by the retirement of Judge Gerald F. Daltan.
In the 16th Circuit, which includes Louisa County and Culpeper, new judges include Dale B. Durrer of Culpeper, who was elected to a General District court judgeship.
 Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028

cdavis@freelancestar.com

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/newsdesk/2013/04/03/new-judge-for-15th-circuit/

*/