Gov. Tim Kaine elevated two lower court judges today to fill circuit seats in Southside and in Chesterfield County and Colonial Heights.
Kaine appointed Chesterfield J&DR Judge Harold W. Burgess Jr. to replace Judge Cleo E. Powell, who was named to the Virginia Court of Appeals, and General District Judge Judge Joel C. Cunningham to replace Judge William L. Wellons, who had retired, in the sprawling 10th Judicial Circuit.
The delegation that covers the Southside circuit – the counties of Appomattox, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Halifax, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg and Prince Edward – was unable to settle on a candidate to replace Wellons during the 2009 legislative session.
Wellons’ chambers were in Halifax as are those of Cunningham, who will be the first black judge in the circuit.
Cunningham has been on the district bench 1997. Before his election, he was in private practice in Halifax for 10 years and served previously as an attorney for the Virginia Legal Aid Society, as a prosecutor in Halifax and as an assistant attorney general.
He is a graduate of Virginia State University and the University of Virginia law school.The delegation that covers Chesterfield agreed on John V. Cogbill III to replace Powell, but he decided not to take the seat after the legislature adjourned for the year. The delegation then told Kaine that it preferred that Burgess fill the seat.
Burgess was in private practice for 22 years before his appointment to the J&DR seat in 1996. He graduated from the University of Richmond in 1968 from and the U.Va. law school in 1972.The General Assembly will decide at the next session whether to elect Burgess and Cunningham to eight-year terms.
By Alan Cooper