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Assembly to meet Friday to elect justices

The chairmen of the House and Senate Courts of Justice Committee said this afternoon they expect the General Assembly to convene Friday and elect appellate judges.

House Courts Chairman Dave Albo, R-Fairfax,  said the Republican caucus will propose the elevation of Virginia Court of Appeals Judges Elizabeth A. McClanahan and Cleo E. Powell to the Supreme Court of Virginia.

They would be replaced on the court of appeals by Glen A. Huff, a Virginia Beach civil litigator and former law partner of Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, and Stephen R. McCullough, senior appellate counsel in the Virginia attorney general’s office.

Albo’s counterpart, Sen. Henry L. Marsh III, R-Richmond, said he believes a consensus has been reached but would not disclose those likely to be elected before his committee meets.

Those are the same candidates that the Republican caucus in the House offered during the regular session of the legislature. The Democratic caucus in the Senate balked at the proposal and insisted that it should be able to select one of the candidates for the court of appeals.

The Republicans initially had proposed McClanahan and another Court of Appeals Judge, D. Arthur Kelsey, for the Supreme Court, but had tentatively agreed to accept Powell rather than Kelsey while sticking by their two candidates for the intermediate appellate court.

The announcement of the session and an apparent deal followed a blunt letter Thursday from McDonnell to House Speaker William J. Howell and Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw.

McDonnell told the legislative leaders the General Assembly needs to appoint justices and judges or get out of the way so that he can do so. Under state law, the governor appoints judges in the first instance when the legislature is unable or unwilling to do so – but he can make the appointments only if the legislature is out of session.

The legislature is in session to work on congressional redistricting and to appoint judges, but it had adjourned last month and had set no date to return to address those topics.

It was not clear what, if anything, the legislature might do on redistricting if it returns on Friday.

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