John V. Cogbill III has told the Richmond-area legislative delegation that he will not accept his appointment to the circuit court bench in Chesterfield and Colonial Heights.
Cogbill is managing partner of McGuireWoods’ Richmond office and very highly regarded for his expertise in land use and other real estate matters. He’s also a member of a family long prominent in county civic and political affairs – his great-grandfather and grandfather were clerks of the circuit court.
But he said in a statement, “After much consideration, I have decided not to become a judge of the circuit court of Chesterfield County. As a longtime resident of Chesterfield County, I regard service on the Chesterfield County Circuit Court as one of the highest honors to which a lawyer can aspire. “I have concluded that the bar, the court and the Chesterfield community will be better served if I remain a practicing lawyer and someone else fills the vacancy that now exists on the court,” he said.
Others said Cogbill was shaken recently by the death of officers in Iraq in the unit in which his son serves as executive officer. A second son is also an Army officer, and they have had seven deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan between them.
Cogbill told legislators and acquaintances that he did not want family concerns to be a distraction from his duties as a judge.
His withdrawal leaves legislators scrambling for a candidate that they might be able to agree on at the veto session on April 8 – if they were to get that opportunity.
The legislature can take up matters other than possible vetoes only if called into session by the governor or if two-thirds of each house votes for a special session.
The word is that Gov. Timothy M. Kaine is unlikely to call for a special session because of concern that the legislature might try to take action on matters other than filling some of the 12 judicial vacancies that now exist. With the governor resisting a special session, a two-thirds majority to hold one is unlikely.
Even with a special session, an agreement might be difficult to come by with Republicans in control in the House of Delegates and Democrats in charge in the Senate.
Sen. John Watkins, R-Chesterfield, and Sen. Henry L. Marsh III, D-Richmond, brokered a deal early in the session to put Cogbill, a Republican, on the circuit court, and Pamela O. Evans, a commissioner of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control favored by Marsh, on the general district court.
By Alan Cooper