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Judge selection delayed at General Assembly

Decisions on how many judgeships to fill, and who to fill them with, have taken a back seat at the General Assembly as legislators wrangle over the state budget.

Reconciling the competing judgeship bills and electing judges are tasks likely to be pushed to the Assembly veto session on April 23.

The delay on judge decisions follows a pattern of the last four years, said Del. Greg Habeeb, R-Salem.

“Now that judges have become such a budgetary issue, there’s really no way to do it until the very end,” he said.

Candidates for whatever judgeships are approved may be scheduled for General Assembly interviews the day before the Assembly reconvenes in April, Habeeb said.

The House and Senate have approved separate judgeship schedules – the Senate with 429 judgeships tracking the recommendations of a recent study – and the House with a plan for 388 judges. The House plan would be expanded as money is available, budget leaders say.

“It looks like the budget side of the conversation is going to win out over the lawyers and judicial needs side of the conversation,” Habeeb said.

Budget negotiations have focused on Medicaid expansion, and Habeeb said he’s not sure the Assembly will leave Richmond Saturday with an approved budget.

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