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Term limits for the Chief Justice?

Those of you who relish a good old-fashioned separation of powers dustup will enjoy this item.

Those of you who hate to see the courts, especially the Supreme Court of Virginia, pulled into a smashmouth political battle won’t be so happy.

A number of legislators didn’t like it when the Supreme Court tried to tell them how to handle the judicial performance evaluations of judges up for reelection. And some legislators really didn’t like it when the court entered a pair of orders indicating the possibility the court could hold them in contempt if someone besides a member of the General Assembly got copies of the evaluations. The evaluations were returned unopened and haven’t been used so far this year.

But after the episode was over, a delegate and a senator did what legislators do: they wrote bills. Paybacks can be hell. You decide if this one’s personal.

Two different bills, House Bill 2527 and Senate Bill 1434, would limit the term of a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia to two consecutive four-year terms.

Current Chief Justice Leroy Rountree Hassell Sr. is in the middle of his second term as the court’s leader. Neither bill contains a grandfather clause that would make an exception for the current occupant of the head seat.

Del. Bill Janis, R-Glen Allen, is the chief patron of HB 2527, which has been referred to the House Courts of Justice Civil subcommittee.

Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, R-Fairfax, introduced SB 1434, which is in the Senate Courts Civil subcommittee.

- Paul Fletcher

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