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Budget conferees close to naming names

Legislators negotiating a budget deal may be close to figuring out who will be in Virginia’s newest crop of judges and where they’ll be sitting, according to one budget conference committee member.

In a recent round of talks, the House wanted to fund 26 judges and the Senate was looking to fill 20 seats, according to Sen. John Watkins, R-Chesterfield, who spoke at today’s annual legislative update for the Metropolitan Richmond Women’s Bar. The numbers tell the story. Earlier in the legislative session, the House wanted to fill 33 trial court seats while the Senate had only identified 10 vacancies to be filled. Legislators also still are negotiating sources of funding and whether some judicial vacancies would be “frozen.”

But there appears to be a consensus to fund the weighted caseload study authorized under HB745, which passed both bodies in March. Such a study would precisely measure and compare judicial caseloads throughout Virginia for circuit, general district and juvenile and domestic relations district courts, to support possible redrawing of judicial boundaries.

The blockbuster issues have been roads, education and health care. But legislators also like to have judges in their districts, and judges may be thrown into the deal-making.

Courts committees already have interviewed and certified a long list of judicial candidates. The next step would be election through floor action. The General Assembly is set to return to Richmond for the one-day veto session on April 18.

Other legislators who appeared at the MRWBA luncheon to highlight bills from the recent General Assembly session were: Sen. Henry Marsh III, D-Richmond; Del. Rosalyn R. Dance, D-Petersburg; Del. G. Manoli Loupassi, R-Richmond; and Del. Jennifer L. McClellan, D-Richmond.
–Deborah Elkins

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