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Bill would allow special court dockets

Any Virginia court could create a special docket to address the “specialized needs of similarly situated defendants” under legislation proposed by Del. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond.

House Bill 123 appears to be a reaction to a recent memo from Chief Justice Cynthia Kinser advising judges that specialized dockets are limited to those expressly approved by the General Assembly. Morrissey’s bill would give judges a free hand to set up courts for addicts, military veterans, the mentally impaired or other defendants with special concerns.

Under the bill, such judge-created special courts would be on their own to find financial support. The General Assembly would have to approve any state funding or creation of a “formal specialized court.”

Meanwhile, Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, has offered legislation to create drug treatment courts that would serve defendants in 10 Virginia counties. No general fund money would be provided for those programs under the bill.

By Peter Vieth

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