Decker, 55, will fill the seat of Judge Larry Elder, who retired Oct. 1 after 22 years on the court.
Decker was appointed to the governor’s cabinet in 2009 after more than 25 years in the attorney general’s office, most recently as deputy attorney general of the public safety and enforcement division. First hired by then-Attorney General Gerald Baliles, she has served under six attorneys general.
Despite her long career as a state lawyer, often working on the prosecution side in criminal cases, Decker said she brings a balanced perspective to the Court of Appeals.
She noted her work as an adjunct professor at the University of Richmond law school, her authorship of articles and her participation on various boards and commissions with a neutral perspective.
“Consistently, I have heard from defense attorneys that they believed I was fair,” Decker said. “Justice was always the goal,” she added.
Decker said she brings a sound policy perspective to the bench from her years of work helping to craft the criminal statutes during legislative sessions.
Decker expected to be sworn in as a judge as soon as early November, she said. “The court is in session and they need a judge,” she said.
In making the appointment, McDonnell pointed to Decker’s extensive experience.
“With nearly 20 years of service representing the Commonwealth before state and federal courts, I cannot think of a more qualified and more worthy individual to fill this vacancy on the Court of Appeals of Virginia,” McDonnell said in a news release.
“It’s an honor to have the opportunity to serve on the court that I have had the privilege of appearing before so many times,” Decker said.
Decker is a resident of Henrico County and has served as president of the Tuckahoe Volunteer Rescue Squad, vice-president of the Henrico County Association of Volunteer Rescue Squads and as commander of the Metro 11 Disaster Response State Task Force, according to the governor’s office.
McDonnell said he made the appointment as quickly as possible because the court has already begun its fall term. His office said an announcement of a new secretary of public safety “will be made in the days ahead.”
Decker must be elected by the 2014 General Assembly to remain on the bench.