Virginia’s Senate is not set to come back into session until January but already bills are being filed for that session. One in particular appears to stem from the rejection, and later interim appointment, of a openly gay prosecutor to the state’s District Court bench.
First, some background:
Virginia (and South Carolina) grant the exclusive power to name judges for full terms to the legislature. Interim appointments to the state’s limited jurisdiction District Court are permitted when the legislature is out of session by the Circuit Court, but the appointment expires 30 days into the start of the next session (Va Code 16.1-69.9:2).
That legislative appointment process was what blocked Tracy Thorne-Begland from election to a seat on the District Court of the City of Richmond, where he served as a prosecutor. Conservative groups targeted Thorne-Begland and his appointment was rejected by the Virginia House of Delegates. After the session adjourned, the Circuit Court gave Thorne-Begland an interim appointment under 16.1-69.9:2 and the state’s Republican Governor voiced his support.
Under a bill just introduced, however, such an interim appointment would no longer be permissible. SB 693 would amend the interim appointment statute to provide
No person shall be appointed under the provisions of this section if such person was the subject of a special and continuing order and under the order such person failed in the House of Delegates or the Senate to receive a majority vote of the members elected to the respective house of the General Assembly.
The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee for Courts of Justice.