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Court money woes likely to grow

After Karl R. Hade, executive secretary to the Supreme Court of Virginia, gave the Judicial Council a by-now familiar account of the grim financial condition of the state’s judiciary on Wednesay, someone asked, “What can we do?”

All heads turned to council member Walter A. Stosch, the Henrico Republican who is a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee.

Stosch provided little guidance at the session on Wednesday. “I don’t know that there is any easy solution,” Stosch said. “I’m getting bombarded every day by mental health people, education, people, people who say they can’t afford the tuition for their children.” Implicit was that he’s not hearing nearly as much about the financial plight of the judiciary.

State general fund revenues are at 2006 levels, and the only solution is to get people back to work so they can pay income and sales taxes, he said.

The major concern of council members was legislation that will leave the state with 50 fewer judges in July 2012 than it had in January 2010 – a 12 percent decrease.

Richard Cullen, the McGuireWoods chairman who is also a member of council, said the bar will have to get involved from a political point of view just because there are more lawyers than judges.

In the absence of help from the General Assembly, the judicial system likely will have to find an additional $2.2 million in cuts this year because the legislature projected that there will be 16 fewer judges by July 2011 than there were in June 2010, but Hade says he knows of only seven judges who are likely to retire in this fiscal year.

In his last meeting presiding over the Judicial Council as chief justice, Leroy Rountree Hassell Sr. received a standing ovation from members after Fairfax Circuit Judge Leslie Alden spoke for other council members in praising Hassell for the initiatives and improvements that he has promoted as chief.

“I’ve not always been right,” Hassell responded, “but my heart has always led me, and I hope it’s led me in the right direction.”

He turned to Justice Cynthia D. Kinser, who attended the meeting and will succeed him in February and said, “In Justice Kinser, we will have a very capable, caring and committed chief justice.”

He added that an acquaintance told him recently that he thought Hassell was the most determined person he’d every met.

“I told him, ‘You haven’t met Justice Kinser.’ ”

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