Judicial selection in Virginia

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in Virginia
Seal of Virginia.png
Virginia Supreme Court
Method:   Legislative elections
Term:   12 years
Virginia Court of Appeals
Method:   Legislative elections
Term:   8 years
Virginia Circuit Courts
Method:   Legislative elections
Term:   8 years
Virginia District Courts
Method:   Legislative elections
Term:   6 years

Selection of state court judges in Virginia occurs almost exclusively through legislative election.[1] Having used this method even before it was granted statehood, Virginia is one of only two states in the country, the other being South Carolina, where judges are selected this way.[2][3]

Selection process

See also: Legislative election of judges

The selection process is identical for supreme court, court of appeals and circuit court judges. As outlined in Article VI of the Virginia Constitution, judges are elected by a majority vote of the general assembly (the combined house of delegates and senate).[4]

Supreme court justices serve for twelve years while appeals and circuit judges serve for eight years. At the end of their terms, judges must be re-elected by the legislature just as they initially were.[4]

Selection of the chief justice or judge

The chief justice and judge of each court is selected by peer vote. The supreme court chief justice serves in that capacity for four years, while the chief judges of the appeals and circuit courts serve for two years.[1]

Qualifications

To serve on the supreme court, court of appeals or circuit court, a judge must be:

  • a state resident;
  • a circuit resident (for circuit judges);
  • a state bar member for at least 5 years; and
  • no older than 70.*[1]

*Retirement is mandatory for sitting judges who turn 70 while in office. Such judges may continue serving until 20 days after the convening of the regular general assembly session following his or her birthday.[5]

Vacancies

When the general assembly is in session, midterm vacancies are filled by the same legislative election process normally used to select judges. When the assembly is not in session, the governor appoints a replacement to serve until 30 days after the start of the next session, by which point a judge must be elected to the seat.[4][1]

District courts

See also: Legislative election of judges

Virginia's limited jurisdiction district court judges are also chosen through legislative election.[6] They serve terms of six years.[7]

Qualifications

Judicial requirements for the district courts are similar to those of the other courts. Judges must be:

  • a state and local resident;
  • a state bar member for at least 5 years; and
  • no older than 70.*[6]

*Retirement is mandatory for sitting judges who turn 70 while in office. Such judges may continue serving until 20 days after the convening of the regular general assembly session following his or her birthday.[8]

Vacancies

Midterm vacancies are filled by legislative election. If the general assembly is not in session when a vacancy occurs, the governor appoints a replacement to serve until 30 days after the next session begins. A full-term judge is then elected.[6]

History

Selection methods in Virginia have undergone several changes since the inception of the judiciary. Below is a timeline noting the various stages, from the most recent to the earliest:

  • 2002: The chief justice of the Virginia Supreme Court is elected by peer vote to a four-year term.
  • 1983: The Virginia Court of Appeals is created.
  • 1870: Judges are elected by the general assembly, no longer requiring gubernatorial nomination.
  • 1864: Judges are elected by the general assembly "from persons nominated by the governor."
  • 1850: Judges are elected by popular vote. Term lengths of supreme court and circuit court judges are changed to twelve and eight years, respectively.
  • 1776: Judges are elected for life by the general assembly.[2]

Selection of federal judges

United States District Court judges, who are selected from each state, go through a different selection process than that of state judges.

The district courts are served by Article III federal judges who are appointed for life, during "good behavior." They are usually first recommended by senators (or members of the House, occasionally). The President of the United States of America nominates judges, who must then be confirmed by the U.S. Senate in accordance with Article III of the United States Constitution.[9]

Step ApprovedA Candidacy Proceeds DefeatedD Candidacy Halts
1. Recommendation made by Congress member to the President President nominates to Senate Judiciary Committee President declines nomination
2. Senate Judiciary Committee interviews candidate Sends candidate to Senate for confirmation Returns candidate to President, who may re-nominate to committee
3. Senate votes on candidate confirmation Candidate becomes federal judge Candidate does not receive judgeship

See also

External links

References

VirginiaVirginia Supreme CourtVirginia Court of AppealsVirginia Circuit CourtsVirginia District CourtsVirginia MagistratesUnited States District Court for the Eastern District of VirginiaUnited States District Court for the Western District of VirginiaUnited States bankruptcy court, Eastern District of VirginiaUnited States bankruptcy court, Western District of VirginiaUnited States Court of Appeals for the Fourth CircuitVirginia countiesVirginia judicial newsVirginia judicial electionsJudicial selection in VirginiaVirginiaTemplate.jpg