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Chief Justice Kinser, politely, pushes back (access required)

ROANOKE—Virginia Chief Justice Cynthia D. Kinser has sounded a note of polite resistance to General Assembly efforts to expand the legislature’s control of the state’s courts. In her inaugural State of the Judiciary address at the Virginia Judicial Conference in Roanoke Tuesday, Kinser urged judges to “recommit to preserving the rightful esteem in which our judiciary ...


  1. “Virginia’s judiciary is a separate and equal branch of government essential to securing the blessings of liberty,” she said in opening her formal remarks.


  2. Roger D. Brooks

    The Chief Justice’s comments have been diplomatically made, taking the high road in reminding the Legislature (and Governor) that the balance of power is a fundamental pillar of our government. I have been shocked to hear comments from the legislative and administrative branches suggesting that statutory changes should be made to “rein in” judicial discretion – an inherent aspect of the judiciary which may only be altered by constitutional changes. We as attorneys are partly to blaim for the Legislature’s wayward conduct – we have failed to lead by serving. Historically the Legislature was well populated by attorneys who helped to fashion legislation that predictably passed legal muster, while at the same time guiding fellow legislators to understand the balance between the three branches of government. As attorney numbers have declined, we have seen the quality of legislation decline (for example, the driving civil penalty debacle). In addition, we have seen legislators shun input from the Bar in multiple areas, including the appointment of judges, an area where the Bar is most qualified to provide input. Ironically, the very legislators who have championed the “get tough on crime” banner have turned their backs on funding and filling the very judicial seats necessary to carry out their cause. While a legislature entirely composed of attorneys would likewise lack the needed balance of perspectives, it is time for more attorneys to again become involved in the legislature by, at a minimum, regularly meeting personally with their respective legislators to weigh in on pending action, or, at best, running for office to elevate our legislature.

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