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Legislators reject bills to clip judicial appointments

The second of two bills that would have limited the appointment power of Virginia circuit judges has met defeat at the General Assembly.

Seen as a reaction to the appointment of former prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland as a Richmond general district judge, the bills would have prevented interim appointment of judge candidates who were rejected by the Assembly. Thorne-Begland was appointed by Richmond circuit judges after he failed to win sufficient votes in the House of Delegates last year.

The Senate Courts Committee voted eight-to-five with one abstention Wednesday to kill Senate Bill 693, offered by Sen. Richard H. Black, R-Leesburg. A House version was set aside earlier this month. A constitutional amendment to similarly restrict the governor on interim judicial appointments also met defeat.

Republican leaders in the House last year denounced Thorne-Begland’s post-session interim appointment as an affront to the Assembly’s judicial election authority, but the Assembly nevertheless elected Thorne-Begland to a full term in this year’s session.

Thorne-Begland, who makes no secret of his same-sex domestic relationship, made headlines as Virginia’s first openly gay judge.

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