20th Judicial Circuit of Virginia – Voice your concerns about a candidate

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As the citizens who reside in the 20th Judicial Circuit of Virginia, which consists of Loudoun County, are aware of we have judicial vacancies; two vacancies to be exact. What the citizens are not aware of is the lack of transparency in the Judicial Selection process and the incredibly low requirements to become a judge. Most citizens are not aware of the impact that an unqualified judge can have on their life. The judicial selection process is listed here.

The following are the requirements to become a judge per the Virginia Constitution. It is startling to learn that the only requirement is for the new candidate to be a resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia and be a member of the bar association for five years prior to their appointment. This is an incredibly low bar and attracts very unqualified candidates. In reality a judicial appointment is more of a popularity contest than any measure of a legal acumen.

Section 7. Selection and qualification of judges.

  • All justices of the Supreme Court and all judges of other courts of record shall be residents of the Commonwealth and shall, at least five years prior to their appointment or election, have been admitted to the bar of the Commonwealth. Each judge of a trial court of record shall during his term of office reside within the jurisdiction of one of the courts to which he was appointed or elected; provided

Judges are elected by the members of the General Assembly not the public. The public has no vote in the process; the judicial candidates are first selected by the Local Bar Association with no public input. The nomination of the local bar comes down to who knows who and who is better connected. Does the reader see the trend, there is no public input. In reality, the public has no idea of who is being appointed to the bench or their experience of the candidate. The local bar does not send out any brochures or documents soliciting input from the public.

The example of Senator Phillip Puckett’s and his daughter reflect this. The reader may recall that Senator Puckett resigned, allegedly, to allow his daughter to receive a judicial appointment. Deals are made and judgeship’s are awarded as favors. Unfortunately, this is the way the system works in Virginia.

Prior to the General Assembly voting on the judge, the public does have a small opportunity to voice their opinion about a candidate prior to the vote in the General Assembly. It is debatable whether or not this has any impact. To voice his or her opinion the citizen must drive to Richmond, which is no simple task, or meet with legislators in their district to voice concerns about the particular candidate. Usually once the candidate has been sent to Richmond for a vote, it is a done deal.

Consider the case of Judge Esther Wiggins in Arlington, her abuses are amply documented and the citizens have voiced the opinions repeatedly but she still keeps her position.

Since the amount of public input is so miniscule, I would urge the citizens to contact their local legislators and members of the Courts of Justice. The following links below list the members of the Courts of Justice. It is important to this before the candidate goes to Richmond. The Courts of Justice Committee reviews the qualifications of a candidate before a vote takes place. It is critical to voice your concerns and opinion about a candidate. The Courts of Justice Committee members are a good place to start. The links of the names and contact information for members is below.

Delegates

http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/house/members/members.php?committee=Courts+of+Justice+-+Judicial+Subcommittee

Senate

http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/house/members/members.php?committee=Courts+of+Justice+-+Judicial+Subcommittee

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