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Assembly reconvenes but election of justices unlikely

The Virginia General Assembly will be in town today and could fill two vacancies on the Supreme Court of Virginia, but key players in making that happen say any action is very unlikely.

The primary reason for the one-day session is the realignment of congressional districts. The Senate and the House of Delegates have different proposals, and the expectation is that each body will reject the other’s plan and appoint a conference committee to negotiate a compromise. The word is that the legislature will adjourn this afternoon and return some time next month.

The two houses aren’t scheduled to meet at the same time, a requirement for selecting judges under arcane legislative rules.

Del. Ben Cline, R-Lynchburg, the chairman of the House Courts of Justice judicial systems subcommittee, said, “We’re trying to think outside the box to fill our constitutional responsibilities.”

“Offers are out there from both sides” – the House Republican caucus and the Senate Democratic caucus – but not ones that the other side can agree on, Cline said. Judges historically have been chosen by the caucus of the party with a majority in each house.

Sen. Don McEachin, D-Richmond, a member of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, agreed with Cline that action today is unlikely.

Communication among caucus members and between the caucuses on judicial appointments is difficult even when the legislature is in session because it’s often hard to determine whether an individual legislator is speaking for himself, a coalition within a caucus or the caucus itself.

With legislators scattered all over the state as they have been for much of the last two months, communication has been that much harder, Cline and McEachin said.

Republicans have a stronger bargaining hand because Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell will fill the seats if the legislature adjourns for the year without doing so. The Assembly won’t adjourn until it agrees on congressional redistricting.

One comment

  1. I argued Tuesday before the Supreme Court…5 Justices heard the case, not the 7 that normally make up the Court. This is unacceptable. We cannot expect these Justices to wade through the same load of complicated cases and continue to write accurate, high-quality opinions when 5 are trying to do the work of 7. Something has to give. The General Assembly needs to pick two and move on. There are plenty of very qualified candidates.

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