Judge James W. Benton Jr., the last of the original members of the Virginia Court of Appeals, will retire Oct. 1.
Benton (photo at right) turns 64 in September. He is also the state’s senior appellate judge.
A native of Norfolk and a graduate of Temple University and the University of Virginia law school, Benton was appointed to the court of appeals when it was created in 1985. He had been in private practice in Richmond before the appointment. He was and is the only black member of the court.
Benton generally is regarded as the most liberal member of the court and dissents far more often than any other judge, usually on behalf of criminal defendants. Despite his frequent disagreement with his colleagues, he is well respected by the other members of the court for his intelligence, work ethic and pleasant demeanor.
Because Benton’s retirement will occur when the General Assembly is not in session, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine will choose his successor. The legislature will fill the position next year, so Kaine is expected to confer with Republican legislators about the appointment.