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General Assembly elects Mims 

Alan Cooper//March 9, 2010

General Assembly elects Mims 

Alan Cooper//March 9, 2010

UPDATE: The General Assembly formally elected William C. Mims to the Supreme Court of Virginia, effective April 1.

Mims will become only the second person to serve as a Virginia legislator, an attorney general and a member of the Supreme Court.

Any doubts that he will replace Justice Barbara M. Keenan, who was confirmed last week as a judge of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, disappeared Monday afternoon when House Minority Leader Ward L. Armstrong of Martinsville introduced him to a joint meeting of the Senate and House Courts of Justice Committees.

Each committee must certify a candidate for a judgeship before that candidate can be considered by their respective bodies. Mims was the only person interviewed for the position.

Armstrong noted that he and Mims were part of a class of 21 delegates who entered the legislature in 1992 – Armstrong as a Democrat and Mims as a Republican.

He was always a gentleman, he was always fair, he was always respectful of the process, Armstrong said of Mims as a legislator.

Mims, 52, was named chief deputy attorney general in 2006 after serving 14 years in the legislature and became attorney general last year when Robert F. McDonnell stepped down as AG to run successfully for governor.

He became a lobbyist for Hunton & Williams in January but is expected to be elected to the Supreme Court before the legislature’s scheduled adjournment on Saturday.

The only other person to be legislator, AG and Supreme Court justice was Albertis S. Harrison, who had the added distinctions of being elected attorney general and also serving as governor.

At Monday’s session, Del. Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville, asked Mims for his view of the role of the Supreme Court in suggesting policy and mentioned specifically Chief Justice Leroy Rountree Hassell’s Commission on Mental Health Reform, of which Mims was a member.

“I think it’s important that there be self-imposed restraint by the court,” Mims responded but added that “many good things came out of” the mental health commission. He emphasized that the committee’s work largely was in the form of recommendations for the legislature to accept or reject. “It’s a legislative role to set policy,” he said.

Asked why he wanted to be a Supreme Court justice, Mims recalled that he is entering his 30th in serving the commonwealth in some capacity, starting with his position as a legislative assistant to then-U.S. Sen. Paul Trible.

He said he believes his “aptitude and skill set” are a good fit for the high court, honed by his work as a legislator and in the attorney general’s office learning the law, statutory construction and the relationship between the legislature and the courts.

Del. Vivian Watts, a Democrat from Fairfax, captured the largely adulatory tone from the legislators when she said, “Let the record show that a few good things come out of Northern Virginia.”
A native of Harrisonburg, Mims graduated from the College of William and Mary and George Washington University law school. He also has a master’s of law degree from Georgetown University.

He practiced for four years at Hazel & Thomas before spending 14 years as a solo practitioner and with a small firm in Leesburg. His practice included civil litigation, real estate transactions and general business matters such as commercial and construction disputes, employment discrimination claims, and workers’ compensation and personal injury cases.

Mims was elected to the House of Delegates in 1991 and to the Senate in 1997, where he was popular and respected on both sides of the aisle. Those who served with him praise his intellect, integrity and demeanor.

While in the legislature, he served on the Virginia Code Commission from 2000-2006 and on the Virginia Housing Commission from 1994-2006.

Mims was among those vetted by statewide bar groups in 2007 after Justice Elizabeth B. Lacy retired.

He received the top rating from most groups but the seat went to Justice S. Bernard Goodwyn.

He will be the first justice without prior judicial experience since the appointment of Hassell in 1989.

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