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Arlington bar leaders oppose proposed loss of judges

A proposed reduction in the number of circuit judges for Arlington and Alexandria brought out Arlington bar leaders in force last night at a hearing on proposed realignment of the state’s judicial boundaries.

Arlington had four circuit judges until earlier this year when Judge Benjamin N.A. Kendrick retired. Judge James F. Almand also has announced his retirement. Alexandria has three judges.

The only proposal that many of the 60 or so persons at last night’s hearing had seen called for only five judges for a new circuit to be composed of Alexandria and Arlington.

Arlington Circuit Court Clerk Paul Ferguson said reducing Arlington’s judicial contingent to two, even with help from one of the Alexandria judges “would really decimate our court in so many ways.”

He said he has submitted amended caseload figures to reflect that the cour uses a different method of counting criminal cases from some other courts. Arlington has not considered revocation proceedings as separate cases while many courts, including Alexandria, count them as  new cases.

Last night’s hearing at George Mason University in Fairfax was one of six being held across the state this month by the 22-member Judicial Boundary Realignment Study Committee. A legislative redistricting proposal died earlier this year with the understanding that the court system would do its own study and report to legislative committees in the fall. Chief Justice Cynthia D. Kinser appointed the committee headed by Loudoun Circuit Judge Thomas D. Horne.

The study committee has come up with a 27-circuit plan in response to the 19-circuit legislative proposal that had called for only five judges for an Arlington-Alexandria circuit. The committee’s proposal also puts the two localities in the same circuit but has six judges.

The plan that has been most popular at the first three hearings would maintain the current 31 circuits and create an overlay of 11 regions. Judges in those regions would be empowered to adjust the caseloads within the regions.

We had a story Tuesday with links to maps of the proposed realignments.

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