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Bar leaders urge filling vacant judgeships

judges_seat-224x300Leaders of nine statewide bar associations are urging legislators to fund and fill all of Virginia’s trial court judgeships, saying unfilled bench seats are causing severe harm to the judicial system.

The unified statement on the cost-saving freeze on judicial funding comes from presidents of the Virginia Bar Association, the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, the Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys and six other lawyers’ organizations.

The groups’ joint resolution expands on a “forceful” message delivered this year by Chief Virginia Supreme Court Justice Cynthia D. Kinser, according to VBA president Thomas R. Bagby.

“We just felt it was important to get on record how the VBA and other bar associations felt about the issue,” Bagby said.

Since 2010, when the judicial hiring freeze began, the number of funded judgeships has fallen from 402 to 386, according to the cover letter accompanying the resolution. The resolution notes points made by Kinser this year – that the judiciary takes less than one percent of Virginia’s budget while court operations produce far more money than they spend.

The resolution emerged just three weeks before the Supreme Court is due to deliver a fresh report on trial court caseloads. Bagby said he had not heard a word about what the report is expected to say about the allocation of judges.

Other organizations signing the resolution were the Old Dominion Bar Association, the Local Government Attorneys of Virginia, the Virginia Creditors Bar Association, the Virginia Women Attorneys Association, the Hispanic Bar Association of Virginia and the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Virginia Inc.

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