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No new justices, but 14 lower court judges

The General Assembly was too distracted by redistricting this evening to negotiate seriously on filling two vacancies on the Supreme Court of Virginia, but legislators did manage to fill 14 lower court seats on which local delegations had agreed.

Senate Democrats finally got around to a counter-offer to House Republicans on the Supreme Court vacancies, proposing Court of Appeals Judges Cleo E. Powell and Elizabeth A. McClanahan and backing Glen A. Huff and Portsmouth Circuit Judge Kenneth R. Melvin to fill the Court of Appeals vacancies that would be created by the elevation of Powell and McClanahan.

The House earlier had suggested McClanahan and another Court of Appeals judge, D. Arthur Kelsey, for the high court and Huff and Stephen R. McCullough for the Court of Appeals. Huff is a civil litigator in Virginia Beach and a former law partner of Gov. Robert F. McDonnell. McCullough is senior appellate counsel in the Virginia attorney general’s office.

Legislators left town this evening after completing work on realigning House and Senate districts, but they will have other opportunities to fill the appellate seats because work remains on realigning congressional districts. It was not clear when they will return for that work or deal with a possible, but unlikely, veto of the redistricting plan for the House and Senate.

Del. Benjamin L. Cline, chairman of the judicial subcommittee of the House Courts of Justice Committee, said legislators will continue to negotiate and have a wide field of qualified candidates if they are unable to choose from the six at the top of the list now.

Circuit judges elected by the legislature are Judge W. Richard Savage III in the 5th Circuit, Judge Paul W. Cella in the 10th Circuit, Judge James S. Yoffy in Henrico County, Judge Sarah L. Deneke of the 15th Circuit, James C. Clark in Alexandria, Judge F. Patrick Yeatts in the 24th Circuit and Judge Chadwick S. Dotson in the 30th Circuit.

General district judges are Alfred W. Bates III of the 5th Circuit, James J. O’Connell III of the Chesterfield/Colonial Heights Circuit, Mary Bennett Malveaux of Henrico County, Ricardo Rigual of the 15th Circuit and Fauquier Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Judge J. Gregory Ashworth, who will move the county general district court.

New J&DR judges are Shannon O. Hoehl, who will sit in Hanover County in the 15th District and Jonathan S. Lynn who will take Ashworth’s place in Fauquier.

At least a dozen circuit and district seats remain to be filled. If the legislators are unable to agree on them and the appellate seats, McDonnell would fill the appellate and circuit vacancies and circuit judges would fill the district seats.

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